Safety tips for in the car and on the road
CHoR’s injury prevention program through Safe Kids VA offers a combination of preventable injury education and accessible safety equipment to children and their families to keep them safe in a car and near the road.
Car safety tips and road safety tips to prevent injuries
Choosing a newborn car seat
Using the proper child safety seat can protect a child’s life. The best safety seat is one that fits the child and vehicle, and that can be used correctly on every ride.
- Review the Safe Kids Ultimate Car Seat Guide for information and videos
- Purchase a federally-approved safety seat designed for infants.
- Consider a seat with three or more harness strap positions.
- Maintain correct seat angle according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Read vehicle and safety seat instruction manuals for assistance.
- Install seat prior to hospital discharge.
- Install seat in the rear-facing position.
- Seek local safety seat technicians for assistance.
- Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children ride rear-facing until their second birthday or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat.
- Use a rear facing car seat for your infants up to 22 to 35 pounds and 26 to 35 inches, depending on the model.
- Know the latest Virginia car seat laws.
- Use a safety seat with an unknown history (purchased at a yard sale, consignment store, etc.)
- Wait until hospital discharge to install the safety seat or seek help.
- Place padding behind the child’s back or under their bottom.
- Purchase extra products that were not sold with the safety seat (harness strap covers, toys, head supports, etc.).
- Place a rear-facing child safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle, unless the vehicle manufacturer allows the airbag to be turned off. (Follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations regarding other vehicle airbags.)
If your baby weighs less than five pounds, keep the following additional recommendations in mind:
- Purchase a federally approved infant car seat with a lower weight listed as birth to three or four pounds, whatever weight is appropriate for your child
- Consider a seat with a five-point harness system.
- Consider a seat with two to three crotch strap positions.
- Seek local safety seat technicians for assistance.
- Use a safety seat with a listed lower weight of five pounds or more.
Get assistance with installation of a child safety seat.
Choosing a booster seat
When they’ve outgrown the height and weight limits of the forward-facing car seat and properly fit in a vehicle safety belt, big kids can use booster seats, but aren’t just ready for a seatbelt alone. Kids who are in a booster seat in the back seat of your car are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash that children who only use a seatbelt.
When are kids ready to move to a booster seat from a car seat? When they’ve outgrown the height and weight limits of the forward-facing car seat. Typically, this happens when they are between 8 to 12 years of age and have reached 4’9”.
Here are some tips for using booster seats properly:
- Do not place the shoulder belt under the child’s arm or behind their back. Make sure that your child doesn’t put the shoulder belt behind his or back or under the arm either! This is a common problem.
- When in the booster seat, make sure the lap and shoulder belts fit. The seat belt should lie flat across your child chest on the bony part of their shoulder and low on the hips or upper thighs.
- Watch this video on how to install a booster seat.
Seatbelt safety tips
Is your child ready to move to using a seat belt from a booster seat? Are they a teen about to get behind the wheel? Ensuring everyone in the family practices seatbelt safety by buckling up is the most important thing you can do to stay safe in the car.
- Don’t rush your child from a booster seat to a seatbelt. You can check if they’re ready using the safety belt fit test.
- Once your child passes the safety belt fit test, teach them the importance of wearing a seatbelt on every car ride.
- Be a good example! When adults wear seatbelts, kids will wear seatbelts. This is especially important as your child becomes old enough to get behind the wheel.
- A lap and shoulder belt provides the best protection.
- Have your child sit upright when using seatbelts. Slouching or leaning against a window can make the seatbelt less effective in the event of a collision.
Getting ready to drive: Teen car safety
When your teen is getting ready to drive, it is important that they have the tools and support to do so safely. Knowing the rules of the road is critical! Here are some tips to help make sure your teen is prepared to drive safely:
- Buckle up every time!
- Teach them passenger safety. Safe Kids Worldwide offers a Countdown2drive program, which helps you put together a passenger agreement and guidelines for pre-teens and teens that are specially-tailored for your family.
- Set a good example by not using your phone and eliminating other distractions so your kids can see how important it is to be focused on the road.
- Teach your kids to ride with experienced drivers and never get in the car with someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Each year more than 9,000 kids are treated in the ER for injures that happened while they were by themselves in or around a vehicle. Prevent injuries by following these tips for driveway and parking lot safety:
- Take a few seconds to walk around your parked car to check for children.
- Accompany little kids as they get in and out of vehicles.
- Hold your little one’s hand while walking near a moving vehicle.
- Create a safe area for kids to wait when near vehicles that are about to move and make sure the driver can see them.
- Limit play in the driveway by working with kids to pick up toys and other types of equipment that might entice them to play.
- Don’t leave your child unattended in parking lots or driveways while cars are present.
Make sure your child walks to their destination safely by teaching them these simple tips:
- From an early age kids should learn to look left, right, then left again before crossing the street.
- Limit distractions while crossing the street. Make sure phones and other devices are down to make sure they’re paying attention.
- Walk on sidewalks or paths and use cross walks when possible.
- Children under the age of 10 need an adult when crossing the street. This is important because a child's brain is not developed enough to judge distance and speed to navigate traffic properly until the age of 10.
Dangers of leaving your child in the car
- Never leave your child alone in the car! While it can be tempting to do so while you run into the store quickly, leaving a child in a car can lead to serious injury from heatstroke, even in cooler temperatures. A car's temperature can raise 19 degrees in 10 minutes.
- Reduce the number of injuries and death from heatstroke by remembering to ACT.
- Avoid injury by never leaving your child in a care alone.
- Create reminders by keeping a purse or phone in the backseat with your child.
- Take action if you see a child alone in a car by calling 9-1-1.
- See more heatstroke information here.
CHoR serves the Richmond area with 24/7 pediatric emergency room care. We also are available for virtual urgent care visits from 4 p.m. to midnight for minor injuries sustained at home.
Additional car and road safety resources for families: