Make Car Safety A Driving Concern
Whether it’s across the country, across town or just down the street, it’s important for parents to keep car safety on their mind.
Cars are convenient, making travel easier and more comfortable no matter what the distance. But they are also something that must be treated with respect. An extra measure of caution is essential with children because they don’t fully understand that cars can be dangerous.
Show Some Restraint
One of the biggest keys to keeping children safe in the car is using proper restraints, including car seats, booster seats and seat belts. Children who aren’t properly restrained are at risk for serious, even deadly injuries, and can be a distraction to the driver.
Follow these simple tips for properly securing your child. If you’d like in-depth info, there are great resources available at www.owensborohealth.org/carseatsafety or www.healthychildren.org.
- Read the instructions! A car seat is no good if you don’t use it right, especially according to each seat’s weight/height guidelines. Make sure restraints are snug (leave enough room for a finger under the strap) and harness clips are properly placed.
- Children under age 2 should be in a rear-facing car seat. This protects their head and neck during sudden stops or crashes. It’s best to keep them in the seat until they reach the height/weight limit. After that, use a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness.
- Once your child outgrows the height/weight limits for car seats, move to high-back booster seats. Don’t skip this step! Booster seats are just as important as car seats.
- Once your child reaches 4’9” (57 inches) in height, they can ride without a special seat. Make sure to use the seat belt correctly by placing it across the shoulder. Seat belts can cause injuries if used incorrectly. Children under 13 should also always ride in the back seat to prevent injury from airbags.
Don’t be afraid to ask for expert assistance. There are several options locally to have an expert check your car seat, including a free car seat check opportunity at the grand opening of Meijer on Parrish Avenue. That event will be on June 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can also see Owensboro Health’s Car Seat Safety page for a list of local agencies and experts that can help you.
Calm & Cool Is The Way To Go
No matter how vigilant or cautious any parent is, we still make mistakes. Don’t let a mistake turn into a tragedy. Even short periods of time in hot cars can be deadly for children, because children overheat up to five times faster than adults.
Here are some tips that can help:
- Use a reminder! Leave something you need in the back seat with the child, like a purse, wallet or cell phone. You can even use smartphone apps or other clever reminder methods.
- Internal temperature in a car can jump 20 degrees in just 10 minutes and cracking a window isn’t enough. Even on days as cool as 57 degrees, cars can become dangerously hot inside.
- Life happens, but don’t let it throw you off. Don’t let a distraction or an unexpected change in your routine cause you to make a mistake.
If you see a child in a hot car, call 911 immediately and get them out if you believe they’re in danger. If a child that has been in a hot car is unresponsive or in pain, spray them with cool water to help bring their temperature down safely (do not use an ice bath).
There are a few others things to keep in mind:
- Teach children that cars are not toys or places to play. Don’t let them use a car trunk for play or hide-and-seek.
- Always lock your car and keep the keys out of reach. This guards against theft and prevents children from getting in unsupervised.
- Watch for kids and take it slow when leaving or arriving anywhere. Moving slowly gives you plenty of time to react to a child or other hazard.
If you have other questions about car safety, your pediatrician has great resources. Owensboro Health Foundation also has a program to help families in need get car seats.
Learn more about Car Seat Safety at Owensboro Health.
Dr. John Phillips is a board-certified pediatrician with Owensboro Health Medical Group.
This article first appeared in June 16, 2016 edition of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.