You’ve spent hours ensuring every inch of your home is safe for your children. Every outlet is covered, baby gates have been installed, and you have anchored each piece of furniture to the wall. But have you thought about childproofing your car?
You and your family spend countless hours in your car, driving at high rates of speed, with your precious children strapped snuggly into the backseat, so why not make it as safe as your home? Whether running errands around town or embarking on a road trip adventure, you can do some things to ensure every passenger in your car returns home safely.
Every time you introduce a new car into your family’s life, whether you’ve purchased a new, pre-owned, or used branded car, it’s a good idea to run through this child safety checklist to make sure the people you love are safe. The same goes for temporary cars, such as those you rent or borrow.
1. Store your keys out of reach.
Kids are curious and bold. More than one child has hijacked their parent’s keys and attempted to take it for a joyride. Kids will even find themselves in trouble while pretending to drive a car, accidentally starting it, or putting it in gear. If you have small children in your house, keeping your car keys out of reach will prevent this scenario from ever happening.
2. Never leave children in a car unsupervised.
Kids think cars are fun, and they are. They are full of buttons, and they go fast. When kids are in a car unattended, they can find themselves in a variety of dangerous scenarios, from a vehicle accidentally becoming engaged, the cabin reaching dangerously hot temperatures, or a thief driving off with your kids in the back seat. Play it safe; make sure kids are never alone in the back of a car.
3. Always engage your parking brake.
While most of the time your parked car is secure and poses no danger, there are rare occasions where cars roll when they are parked. When children are around, this can be catastrophic. As an added layer of safety, set your parking brake every time you park your car.
4. Activate child locks.
Cars come equipped with a safety feature to prevent the back doors of a car from being opened from the inside, preventing kids from opening doors while the vehicle is moving. Safety locks also keep kids in the car until an adult can help them safely exit. While this feature needs to be manually engaged, it is quick and easy.
5. Latch any unused seat belts.
The buckle on an unused seat belt can act as a projectile in an accident. Making sure to securely latch any unused buckles will keep them away from passengers if you are in an accident.
6. Lock the rear windows.
Cars also have a safety feature that will lock the back windows, preventing kids from playing with automatic windows and giving the driver control over the use of the rear windows. This feature is generally engaged with the click of a button and should be used whenever a child is in your car.
7. Keep your car clean and organized.
Kids come with lots of stuff, which can quickly add up to create a cluttered car. In the event of a high-speed impact or rollover, every single item in the vehicle becomes a projectile. Due to the added velocity from high speeds, even lightweight objects can create enough force to cause major injuries. Cleaning out clutter and adding car organizers to corral necessary belongings will significantly reduce the number of loose objects in the car and keep everyone safer.
8. Create a safety kit.
Keeping you and your kids safe also extends to roadside emergencies. Keep your car stocked with water, emergency food, blankets, and a first aid kit. Ensure you have a spare tire and jack in good condition. A little advance preparation will help keep everyone safe if you end up on the side of the road or get caught in unexpected weather.
9. Check car seat safety.
Kids are in car seats for many years. It can be easy to forget that these safety seats should be periodically pulled out, inspected, cleaned, and properly reinstalled. Follow the installation guidelines provided by your car seat manufacturer, and if you have any doubts, find a certified car seat installer. Depending on your location, you may find this service free of charge at your local fire station or car seat retailer. If you purchase a
10. Learn how to secure a child in their seat correctly.
Child safety guidelines change as a child grows. From rear-facing to forward-facing to high-back boosters to low-back boosters, car seat safety is ever-evolving. Learning the proper way to restrain your child in a car will help keep them safe as they grow. Every time a child graduates to a new seat, read the manual and learn the best way to keep your child safely buckled. And if you purchase a car from used auto sales, don’t sign on the dotted line until you’ve checked the safety belts. Check the webbing, the buckle, and the retraction. If there are issues, make your purchase contingent on those issues being fixed.
11. Drive safely.
The most important thing you can do to keep children safe in your car, on the sidewalks, and in every other vehicle on the road is to drive safely. Distracted driving has become a dangerous epidemic, leading to easily preventable accidents. Drive within the speed limit, put down electronics, and focus on the task at hand.
You and your family have years of fun adventures ahead of you. With as many hours as you spend in your car, it is worth the investment of time to make sure that your vehicle is as safe as possible for anyone who gets in it.