Car Safety Tips for Traveling with ChildrenThe good news is that, according to the Center for Disease Control, fatal car accidents involving children continue to decline. The CDC has reported that during the last decade, fatal crashes involving kids decreased by 43 percent. While this is great step in the right direction, there is much more we can all do to keep children safe on America’s roads. Reducing motor vehicle crash deaths was one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century for the US. However, more than 32,000 people are killed and 2 million are injured each year from motor vehicle crashes. In 2013, the US crash death rate was more than twice the average of other high-income countries. In the US, front seat belt use was lower than in most other comparison countries. One in 3 crash deaths in the US involved drunk driving, and almost 1 in 3 involved speeding. Lower death rates in other high-income countries and a high percentage of risk factors in the US suggest that we can make more progress in reducing crash deaths. So what can we do to mitigate some of these risks. For one, it’s important to note that the decrease in fatal accidents involving children is largely due to better State laws aimed at keeping children safe while riding in vehicles. Many states, including Ohio, have instituted laws that require parents to use car and booster seats until their children are a certain age or have reached a certain size. This could be one of the main reasons why fatal car accidents involving young children has declined over the years. Regardless of these laws, however, there are a number of best practices you should use to keep your kids safe on the road.
#1: How Long Should I Use a Car Seat?You may have wondered, how long do children need to be in a car seat or booster seat in Ohio? Ohio law requires that car or booster seats be used until a child turns 8 or until they reach the 4’9″ height requirement. Another important safety tip is to have children ride in the back seat until they are 13 or older. Although this tip isn’t a state law, it is important to follow to keep your kids safe in the event of a car accident. Front air bags can be powerful, and until a child reaches a certain height and weight, it is best to protect them from the potential negative consequences of this safety device. Air bags were designed with adults in mind: They must open with great force (up to 200 miles per hour) to protect an average-sized, 165-pound (75-kilogram) male from injury. While this force is appropriate for adults and bigger kids, it can be dangerous for small kids, possibly resulting in head and neck injuries.
#2: Always Wear a SeatbeltMost kids spend time in a car or on a school bus every day, and should be taught simple rules for traveling in them to help ensure their safety. Be sure to explain to your kids that these rules must be followed every time, no matter who is driving or how short the ride may be. The best way to impart this upon children is to set a good example – practice what you preach. Children should clearly understand that a seatbelt must be worn during every trip, no matter how short. The seat belt should be fastened before the car starts moving. It’s also important that children know that these rules apply to all cars, not just yours. This will ensure that they are safe no matter who is in the Driver’s seat.
#3: Young Children Should Be in A Rear-facing Car Seat Until They Turn 2An infant-only seat should be placed in the back seat, ideally in the middle of the back seat, but most important, in a position where it fits securely and faces the rear of the vehicle. Make sure that you purchase a reliable and reputable car seat, and avoid secondary markets when possible. If you choose to purchase a used car seat – make sure to check with the manufacturer for any recalls. Accept a used seat with caution. Never use a seat that’s more than 6 years old or one that was in a crash (even if it looks OK, it could be structurally unsound). Avoid seats that are missing parts, are not labeled with the manufacture date and model number (you’ll have no way to know about recalls), or do not come with an instruction manual. Also, check the seat for the manufacturer’s recommended “expiration date.” If you have any doubts about a seat’s history, or if it is cracked or shows signs of wear and tear, don’t use it. If you need assistance installing a car seat, there is help there. Many local health departments, public safety groups, hospitals, law enforcement agencies, and fire departments have technicians or fitting stations to help parents. (If you go to one of these, be sure to ask for a certified child passenger safety technician to assist you.)
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Dennis P. Sawan