Think, for instance, of restraints. Based on an NHTSA report, 37% of those kids, who didn’t survive the accident, were unrestrained. And this despite the fact that NHTSA statistics indicate strongly that use of children safety seats reduce the mortality rate by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers under 4 years. Even for children occupying the front seat, the mortality reduces by 45% provided they use seat belts. Let’s recollect what traffic rules tell us about restraints and what safety experts recommend in this regard.
Road Safety Tips on Child Restraints
Though rules of the road and specific requirements for children’s safety vary depending on a state, each state adopted a child passenger protection law giving it a primary enforcement status. This means that a police officer can stop and ticket you for violating this law for no other reason required.
The issue is not that drivers often violate the law despite the fines that are rather costly in some states, but that in many of them the law still doesn’t cover all age groups and all seating positions to provide the best protection. For example, in Pennsylvania, you are allowed to drive a car with a child over 4 years restrained by a seat belt system, instead of using a safety seat. But according to NHTSA studies, children smaller than 4’9” cannot be properly protected by an adult seat belt system!
Actually, there are many more contradictions between the state laws and safety data, so one of your safe-driving strategies is to exceed the local regulations as to child restraints, following extra-cautious safe driving tips given by safety experts. Here they are:
- Always use a rear-facing restraint system for both infants and toddlers until your baby is 3 years old or he/she outgrows a weight or height maximum for this type of car seats available on the market. Rear-facing seats are safer for little kids, especially for those under 12 months. If you are not excited about the need to buy several seats that can fit your growing baby, consider purchasing a convertible option which usually lasts longer than an infant-only restraint system.
- When your child is over 3 years, it is safe enough to transport him or her to a forward-facing system, but only in the back seat. Be a safe road user and keep your kid in the system, until he/she outgrows the largest model available on the market and move him/her into a booster when your child is about 7 years.
- Use a booster seat until your baby is 4’9”. And even then check that your kid is big enough to be properly protected by adult seat belts. Let him/her sit in the back seat fastened with the belt and check whether it fits tightly wrapping around the thighs, shoulders, and chest rather than around the stomach and neck.
- Even if your child is old enough to use seat belts and a local law allows minors to ride in the front seat, follow the road safety rules and transport your child in the back seat until he/she is 12. Remember, the back seats are safer!
- When driving, always use some type of restraints for both you and your child. No matter what the seat belt laws in your state say, NHTSA statistics show that unrestrained drivers are more likely to have unrestrained minors with them (70% of children were unrestrained in car crashes where drivers also failed to use their seat belts). Moreover, the percentage tends to grow depending on children’s age – the older a child, the greater chances of seat belt nonuse.
It goes without saying that you need to use only state-approved child restraint systems that correspond to your child’s weight, height, and age, as well as fit your vehicle. But also you have to make sure that you use those systems properly, as NHTSA believes that only 2 of 10 safety seats are correctly installed and used. You can check the installation by shaking the base of your seat – if it doesn’t move from side to side more than an inch, everything is OK.
Other Safe Driving Tips to Keep in Mind When Driving with Your Child
- Rear seats are preferable
Do you know why it is better to keep your child sitting in the rear seat? One of the reasons is the use of airbags. On the one hand, airbags are great for saving lives in car crashes. On the other hand, these appliances are blamed for causing children’s deaths, and this is partially true. The problem is that younger children are too small to absorb the impact resulting from inflated airbags. The best way out and one of NHTSA road safety tips is to keep children under 12 out of the front seats, even if your local state law allows them to ride there from 8 years on.
- Don’t allow human cargo
According to NHTSA statistics, one in five vehicles in the USA is a pickup truck. And their cargo areas are often used to transport kids since these vehicles are short of space in the front seats. And in some states, this is not even prohibited by the local laws! Never transport children in the cargo area of a pickup truck! Otherwise, you will put your children at risk that is 26 times higher compared to riding in a cab – they can be killed or injured just because you brake hard.
- Stay sober
Well, this is one of the most obvious road safety tips for drivers transporting their kids. Nevertheless, about 20% of child mortality in car crashes is associated with alcohol-impaired driving. This means that more than 200 kids die annually because some drivers were not responsible enough and, believe it or not, in most cases those drivers were their own parents. So, make sure to avoid any alcohol consumption when you are going to drive with your child or find someone sober who will drive instead of you.
- Move slowly
Based on studies, reducing your speed by 1 km/h, you lower the risk of a car accident by 2%. It is a good reason to move slowly when your child is in the car. Driving safely, you will also avoid injuries associated with hard braking and swerving – children are so restless, even when they are restrained.
- Keep your things in their places
Look inside your car – is it stuffed with all kinds of things scattered around the cab? And do you know that many of these innocent objects can turn into a deadly weapon when flying at high speeds? Our road safety message is that your car is sure to have at least a glove box and a couple door pockets to hide all the sharp, fragile, and heavy objects in order to avoid your child’s injury caused by your sudden braking.
- Watch for keeping hands and heads inside
Explain to your kid that sticking their head and hands outside a vehicle is not a good idea. It looks like fun, but rules of safety on the road require a more precautionary approach. Your child can go too far hanging out of the window, and this can get him or her injured by an approaching vehicle or roadside objects. Such a sad accident can happen even to an adult, so you’d better take no chances.
Use our safety tips for driving with children and keep them alive and healthy!