Tips for Driving Children Safely

Every year, about 2,000 children under age 15 are killed in car accidents and 200,000 more are hurt. Many of these tragedies can be avoided, as they are caused by not driving children properly. There are different ways children are driven in a dangerous manner, including putting them in the wrong safety restraint or not putting them in a restraint at all. Here are tips to make sure that when you drive children, they are properly restrained and are as safe as possible.

Use the right child car seat

The law requires all infants and toddlers to ride in child car seats. But there are different kinds of child car seats. According to the government, from birth to at least one year old and 20 pounds, infants should ride in a rear-facing infant seat. From age one and 20 pounds to about age four and 20-40 pounds, children should ride in a forward-facing toddler seat. After that they should ride in booster seats. These raise the child so the seat belt fits right. Safety experts recommend that kids who have outgrown child safety seats use booster seats until they are at least age 8, unless they are at least 4 feet 9 and 80 pounds. Once a child outgrows a booster seat, he or she can use adult seat belts.

Children and air bags
Most new cars (and many older ones) have air bags for front-seat passengers. When used with seat belts, air bags provide a lot of protection for older children and adults. But you should never put a rear-facing infant car seat in the front seat of a car with a passenger side air bag. In a crash, the air bag inflates very fast. It can inflate with enough force to severely injure or kill the child, since the back of the rear-facing infant seat is close to the dashboard.

Children should ride properly restrained in the back seat
Children approximately ages 12 years old and younger should ride properly restrained in the back seat, even during quick trips. Kids are safer the farther they are from the impact point — usually a frontal crash.

Install and use child car seats correctly
A recent government study showed that over 70% of children ride in car seats that are misused in a way likely to increase a child’s risk of injury in a crash. To be sure your child car seat is installed and used right, read your car owner’s manual and the instructions that come with the car seat. The best child car seat is one that fits your child, fits your car and is easy to install and use right every time. A correctly used and installed seat holds the child firmly in the seat and holds the seat itself firmly in place.

Don’t use secondhand child car seats
Never use a child car seat that’s been in an accident or previously used by someone else. Even minor accidents can make the seat ineffective. Also make sure the seat is not too old. Many car seats have expiration dates stamped on them — be sure not to use a seat past its expiration date.

Use only approved child car seats
Buy and use only seats that meet federal Department of Transportation safety rules. Look for a label saying: “This child restraint system meets all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards.” To be sure there are no problems with the seat and it hasn’t been recalled, call the U.S. Auto Safety Hotline at 1-800-424-9393 or go to www.nhtsa.gov. It is also important to send in registration cards that come with new safety seats. If there is ever a recall, the manufacturer will be able to notify you.

Drive a family friendly vehicle
If you drive children, buy a car that is family-friendly and that offers up-to-date safety features.

Make sure children always wear seat belts
According to the government, children between the ages of 13 and 15 are likely to not wear seat belts. As a parent, it is vital to make sure children always wear their seat belt, whether they are driving with you or someone else. Seat belts are a person’s best protection in a crash, and they save thousands of lives every year.

These are just a few ways to help prevent harm to children in car accidents. With proper care, parents can make sure children are properly buckled when driving, helping to ensure their safety.

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