Kids spend a lot of time in and around vehicles. But they may not be aware of the potential risks, from automatic windows that can pinch tiny fingers, to cars that can back over their play areas without warning.

Each year, more than 9,000 children are treated in the ER for injuries that happen in and around motor vehicles. Many of these injuries are preventable and teaching safe habits can help.

In honor of Child Passenger Safety Month in September, we’ve compiled a list of safety measures to teach your children so they can be safer in and around vehicles.

 

Safety Tips in a Vehicle

Buckle up.

Do:

    • Have your child wear a seat belt for every ride.
    • Position it correctly. The shoulder belt should be across the middle of the chest and shoulder. The lap belt should be low and snug across the hips.

Don’t:

    • Place the shoulder belt under your child’s arm or behind his or her back.
    • Play with seatbelts. Kids can easily become entangled.

 

 

Use a car seat or booster.

Do:

    • Follow height, weight, and age guidelines for car seats and boosters in your state. This will ensure that seatbelts are positioned appropriately.
    • Measure and weigh your kids a few times a year to determine which seat is best.

 

Don’t:

    • Let your child ride in the front seat until about age 13 when airbags will not present a danger.
    • Let kids lay down and sleep outside of their car or booster seats.

 

 

Practice safety around windows and doors.

Do:

    • Explain that windows can go up and down, and pinch anything in their way.
    • Teach that doors must stay closed when the vehicle is moving.

 

Don’t:

    • Let your child touch the door handles or window controls unless an adult says it’s okay.
    • Allow your child to stand on the armrest where controls are often located.
    • Let your child put their hands or head outside the window.

 

 

Let the driver focus on the road.

Do:

    • Encourage your child to sit quietly or find a quiet activity and enjoy the ride.
    • Allow your child to ask appropriate questions and make polite conversation.
    • Have your child ask the driver to pull over to a safe place if they need help with something (such as opening a juice box).

 

Don’t:

    • Let your child be too loud. Your child should know that a car is not the place to argue or throw a tantrum.
    • Encourage your child to ask the driver to look at something that’s not on the road.
    • Allow your child to do anything that could lead to distracted driving for the driver.

 

 

A car is not a toy.

Do:

    • Enforce the rule to stay safely in one’s seat when the car is moving.
    • Encourage your children to find places other than the inside or the outside of a car to play.

 

Don’t:

    • Let your children move around and play in a car even when it is not moving.
    • Allow your kids to crawl into the trunk for any reason. It is not a good hiding spot and they could get trapped.

Pro Tip: Teach older children that cars (manufactured after September 2001) have glow-in-the-dark emergency release switches inside trunks. Show them how to find and release them in case of an emergency.

 

 

Safety Tips Around a Vehicle

Parking lots are not for playing.

Do:

    • Help your children to pay attention to their surroundings. Look all around, and walk carefully and slowly.
    • Show your children the white brake lights that indicate a car will be backing out.
    • Require that your kids stay close to a supervising adult.

 

Don’t:

    • Allow your children to run or play in a parking lot.
    • Assume that parked cars will stay parked. Tell your children that cars often move suddenly.

 

 

Driveways are dangerous.

Do:

    • Supervise children whenever they are playing in a driveway.
    • Put up cones and flags when children are playing to alert cars and prevent them from pulling into the driveway.
    • Designate a safe spot for children to stand when cars are pulling into or out of the driveway.

 

Don’t:

    • Leave toys, chalk, bicycles, or any items that might entice kids in a driveway. Be sure to clean up after any driveway play.
    • Allow your children to chase after balls or other toys that roll out of the driveway into the street.
    • Assume a car sees you. Tell your children that just because you see them doesn’t mean that drivers see you.

 

 

Practice roadside safety.

Do:

    • Teach your children the rules of the road for pedestrians.
      • Toddlers should never be near a road without holding an adult’s hand. Teach them the difference between roads, sidewalks, crosswalks, and driveways. (Pro Tip: Play I Spy… and make it a game.)
      • Preschoolers can recognize road signs by shape and color and traffic lights. Teach them the “stop, look and listen” rule, and to only cross the street with an adult.
      • School-age children should be supervised by an adult. Teach them safe paths to walk and safe places to cross. As they get older, let the child take the lead to walk or bike to school, but go with them until you are confident that they can do it on their own.
    • Pay close attention in school safety zones and around school buses.
    • Reinforce safety skills with games like the Safe Paths to School downloadable board game for ages 4-12.

 

Don’t:

    • Think that children can accurately judge distance and speed when it comes to moving vehicles.
    • Forget to model the behaviors that you want your children to follow.

 

 

What Parents Can Do:

Do:

    • Lock your car and put the keys out of reach of children.
    • Create reminders so you don’t accidentally leave a young child in the car. Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat, and place it in the front passenger seat when your child is in the car. That will be a visual reminder to check the back when you get out.
    • Take a 5-second walk around your car before you back it up. Look to see if there are any children playing near it. The smallest kids are sometimes not seen, and children sometimes dart behind vehicles without thinking about it.

Pro Tip: Consider getting a backup alarm that sounds when you back up to help provide a warning to kids.

 

 

Don’t:

  • Leave your children unattended in the car. Even if you have automatic safety systems, your child might find a way to test those. (If you see an unattended child, call 9-1-1.)
  • Use your cell phone while driving. Model the behavior you want to see, and talk to your kids about the dangers of distracted driving.

 

Finally, maintain your car and insure your vehicle for additional peace of mind. Keeping you and your family safe is a wonderful way to celebrate Child Passenger Safety Month.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

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