How to make your car safe for children

You know your car is safe when you drive by yourself, but how about when you have your kids in or around the vehicle? Having pint-size passengers can add a new element to driving safely. Here are some car safety rules to follow when driving with children.

1. Purchase a proper car seat or booster seat.

Automobile safety for children includes the use of a car seat or booster seat for the appropriate ages. Child restraint seats saved an estimated 8,959 lives from 1975 to 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Using them in passenger cars reduces fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers between the ages of 1 and 4.

2. Use your child restraint correctly.

According to the NHTSA, nearly 75 percent of child restraints are not installed correctly. As a child grows, he will progress from rear facing, to front facing, to a booster seat and then seat belts – in that order. Follow the manufacturer directions for height and body weight and read for detailed installation guidelines. And remember, all children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat. Visit www.nhtsa.gov to find more information and to locate the nearest child seat inspector to you.

3. Remove loose objects.

Loose objects in your car can be a hazard to your child if you get in an accident. Even an abrupt stop can send unsecure objects flying. Smaller children can be especially hurt by objects hurtling around inside a car. Driving safely includes placing your diaper bag on the floor of the vehicle or in the trunk. Electronic games, DVD players and other items that children would play with should be secured or limited during drive time. Remember that this includes keeping pets secured in harnesses or pet carriers as well.

4. Teach children well.

Teach your children that a car is not a toy. Make sure they understand that playing in, around or under a car is not OK. Teach them the signs of when a vehicle is running, such as looking for exhaust and break lights, and encourage them to keep their distance when they see these signs. Rollaway deaths, back-over deaths and trunk entrapment can all be significantly mitigated by teaching these principles.

5. Drive cautiously.

Parents need to follow safe driving practices and this starts with walking around the entire vehicle before driving to make sure no one is playing too close or quietly hiding near the vehicle. Back out slowly and roll down your window so you can hear what’s happening around you. Although many cars come with detection devices like backup cameras or radars that emit sounds when they sense an obstruction behind the car, they cannot compensate for the act of walking around the vehicle to make sure everything and every one is out of the way.