The school run. A quick trip to the shops. A weekend visit to family. We use our cars more and more frequently, even for the shortest journeys. It doesn’t matter how good a driver you think you are. There are all those other vehicles on the roads, and other factors that come into play too. Here’s what you need to remember to keep your kids safe in the car.
1Always buckle up
In most countries, you’re legally required to wear a seatbelt in the front seats of a car. However, not everywhere insists passengers in the rear seats do so. But seatbelts save lives – so it makes sense to use them.
No matter how short the distance, insist that everyone in the car fastens their seatbelt before you go anywhere. Make it a habit from the youngest age so it becomes second nature as your kids get older – in your car and any other vehicle they’re in. Statistics from 2016 showed that 35% of children killed in vehicle crashes in the US were not restrained – that’s around 245 lives lost.
2Follow car seat limits
You wouldn’t dream of not using a car seat for your young child – but it’s important to choose one that’s suitable for their age, weight and height. If the seat is too big or too small, or not built for your child’s weight, it won’t offer the protection it should.
It’s also important to check any expiration dates. Many parents are unaware these exist, but most have one as materials can degrade and parts wear out. You’ll usually find it on the bottom of the seat.
Whichever car seat you choose, make sure it’s fitted in your car properly. Read the instructions thoroughly so you know how to fasten it correctly. The same goes when you’re choosing a booster seat for older children.
3Never leave your kids alone in the car
It’s tempting, we know. You only need to buy a carton of milk or a pack of nappies (diapers). You’ve parked right outside and you’ll be a minute or two, tops. Unbuckling your child and taking them into the store with you seems an unnecessary hassle.
There have been cases where cars have been stolen with a child left in the back. In the UK, a two-year-old girl drowned when the car she was in rolled down a slipway into a fast-flowing icy river. If your child is mobile, there’s a danger they’ll climb around when left alone. They could knock off the handbrake or play with the vehicle’s controls and put themselves in danger.
4Keep an eye on the temperature
Babies and small children can’t regulate their body temperature as well as adults. Temperatures inside a car can rise quickly. We might not feel uncomfortable, but our little ones might – especially if they’re snuggled tightly in a car seat.
Don’t bundle your child up in bulky clothing for journeys of any length. As well as the danger of them overheating, in the event of an accident the fabric can compress. This leaves more room between your child and the safety belts, preventing them from doing their job.
Never leave your baby asleep in the car when you get to your destination, either. If the temperature rises or drops suddenly, there could be serious consequences.
5Beware of buying second-hand
Money is often tight when you have small kids. We’re all for being thrifty and snapping up second-hand equipment, but we’d never recommend compromising on safety. Unless you know the previous owner and the seat’s entire history, don’t buy it. You need to be 100% certain it hasn’t been in an accident, used as a plaything and isn’t worn out.
6Store loose items
It’s never a good idea to have things rattling around loose in your vehicle’s cabin. If you have to brake suddenly or if there’s an accident, they can fly through the air and cause injuries. Even a bottle of water can be dangerous. Keep everything tucked away, either in storage bins or in the boot (trunk).
If your transporting larger items, such as furniture or garden tools, ensure these are securely fastened in place before driving anywhere. These the have potential to cause damage and injury even in normal driving conditions.