Your car may feel like a second home, especially if you spend lots of time shuffling kids from school to activities and more. But the fact is, your car is statistically one of the most dangerous places your child can be. These are some of the most important safety tips set forth by KidsAndCars.org
In fact, vehicle-related injuries are the leading cause of child death. While it's not practical for the typical family to just stop driving, there are steps you can take to make your vehicle more safe for children of any age.
Get the right car seat, and install it correctly. Childproofing your car with an appropriate car seat happens before you even bring your baby home. Research appropriate car seats and ask a professional to help with installation at every stage of growth for your child.
Turn on your child safety locks. One of the simplest and easiest things you can do to keep kids safe while riding in your car is to engage the child safety locks. Usually, all you have to do is open the door and turn a switch to engage. When in use, children can't open doors from the inside, which can prevent them from opening your door when you wouldn't want them to -- for example, while your car is in motion. You should also keep window locks on so children can't use power windows when you don't want them to. However, older children should be taught how to climb into the front seat and open doors if they are trapped inside -- and help younger siblings do the same if needed.
Make sure to be careful with the child rear door locks, however. If your children have snuck into the car by themselves, they might become trapped inside the car. Remember to think carefully about what would be best for your children, depending on their age.
Train yourself to be safe. Your habits can offer protection for your children. Avoid cell phone use and dedicate your full attention to driving safely. Make it a habit to look in or open your back seat, even when children aren't in the car with you. You can even keep your purse, cell phone, even a shoe in the backseat so you'll be sure to look in the back as you grab essential items. It's also important to keep your car door's locked at all times so children can't accidentally climb in. And make sure your keys are always out of reach of children.
Use a backup camera and check blind spots. If your car came with a backup camera, always use it. If you don't have one, consider installing an aftermarket backup camera. And even if you think children are inside, play it on the safe side and look carefully around your vehicle before backing up.
Keep loose items secured. Think about the items you keep in your car. Maybe backpacks, sports equipment, items from work, laptops, mobile devices. Now think about what would happen if you were in a car crash, and they became projectiles. They could seriously injure you or your child, or even result in death. Whenever possible, make sure your items (even ones that don't seem dangerous) restrained or put away securely.
Check your vehicle for appropriate maintenance. Tire blowouts, brake failures, even just getting stuck on the side of the road can be hazardous. But they are often preventable. Stay on top of vehicle maintenance, following the manufacturer's schedule and keeping up with oil changes, tire changes and regular inspections. If something feels off, don't hesitate to check it out even if you think you're too busy. You're never too busy for safety.
Want to make your vehicle safer for children? Driving safely is the first step, but there's more that you can do. Take these important steps to make sure your kids are well protected in and around your car.
Susan Austin is a family research specialist with Family Living Today. A mother of three and small business owner in Texas, Austin spends her days juggling work and family life -- sometimes expertly, sometimes not.