We live in a time where a lot of us drive almost everywhere: to the store, to school, to activities, to Grandma’s house. Keeping kids, and the whole family, safe in and around cars is essential.
Never leave babies or kids alone in the car
Leaving a sleeping child in the car while you dash into the store for even one quick item is just not worth the risk. Leaving that same child in a running car is especially not worth it. An accident or vehicle theft only takes a moment and could cause serious harm, among other things.
Baby can quickly overheat in the car, with temperatures rising in the interior of the vehicle by 20 degrees in only a few minutes in the summer. Babies are small and cannot cope with the temperature change the way an adult could.
An older child could get hurt by unbuckling themselves and fooling around with the car’s gear shift or playing with the powered windows. This could set the car in motion or cause their head (or that of their little brother) to get stuck in a closing window! Worse still, they could get out.
To keep kids safe in the car, put them in last when it’s cold in the winter: leaving them in the car while it warms up could be dangerous. If the tailpipe is blocked by snow and the windows are rolled up, carbon monoxide can fill the vehicle cabin quickly.
Make use of the child protective locks on rear doors that prevent them being opened from the inside when locked. You can also control the use of the power windows feature on all but the driver’s side.
Getting in and out of the car
At some point or another, you might have found yourself in a rush, packing up the kids and their gear into the car without realizing that one or more aren’t properly buckled in before you started to back out of the drive! Allowing yourself enough time to get it all done isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind.
Getting out, particularly with more than one child, can also be difficult. Let older children out first and have them stand touching the vehicle or the stroller while you unbuckle baby. It’s an easy habit to learn and you’ll feel better knowing where everyone is as you get everything out of the car that you might need.
As they get older, you can change how that works, but the goal is to always avoid having them rush away from the parked car.
Whether you’re going on a long road trip or just around the corner, make sure that everyone is properly buckled and sitting in age /size appropriate car and booster seats.
Babies and toddlers should remain in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible, and then front facing after that until they meet height and weight restrictions to transition to a booster seat. Kids need booster seats until they are 11 years old or are at least 4’9” tall.
Until they are tall enough, the seat belt might not sit correctly and, in the event of an accident, could cause serious internal injuries. It should be flat across the shoulder and chest, with the lap belt crossing the hips, not the stomach. If that’s not the case, best keep them in a booster a little longer!
Having a super portable booster is a good plan if you’re traveling by another mode of transportation and renting a vehicle at your destination.
You definitely don’t want to rely on what the rental company might or might not have available!
It’s also a good idea to not let kids sit up front in the car for as long as you can get away with it. While technically a child is old enough at age 12, the reality is that airbags deploy at a rate of 185 miles/hour. That’s a lot of force hitting a child! If they must be up front, push the entire seat back as far from the dash as possible.
There need to be ground rules for toddlers and older: no throwing things, no screaming, and no expecting mom or dad to “look at this!”. If it’s a long trip, set them up with what they’ll need in arm’s reach (snacks, tablets, coloring books) and remind them that anything that falls will stay there until you stop for a break!
However, if a meltdown is winding up in the backseat, it’s a good idea to pull over. A screaming child is even more distracting than a cell phone, so it’s better to get off the road, park in a safe place and deal with the issue than trying to motor through it!
Car safety – both inside and outside the vehicle – is important for everyone in the family to know and understand. Teach them the rules, get into good habits and enjoy your trip, no matter how long or short the drive.
Grainne Kelly is a former travel agent and mom of two who revolutionized the child travel industry by inventing BubbleBum the world’s FIRST portable, inflatable car booster seat that weighs less than one pound and can deflate in seconds, making it simple to throw in a backpack or tote bag. It’s ideal for every day rides and carpooling as well as road trips, fly ins with car rental, taxis, Uber/Lyft rides. Its compact design allows for three across the back. BubbleBum is the 8x winner of the IIHS Best Bet for Car Booster Safety award.