Whether you’re starting a long road trip or taking your child on errands around town, it’s crucial to confirm that your child is safe in your vehicle. Below, we discuss some safety tips that involve children and vehicles so that you can drive with confidence, knowing that you’ve taken the proper preventive measures.

Install Your Child’s Car Seat Correctly

While installing a car seat may not seem difficult, it’s still important to take the time to do it properly. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that almost half of car seat installations aren’t done correctly. When installed improperly, car seats don’t offer the protection they’re meant to provide for their occupants, which can cause serious injury in the event of a car accident.

Be sure to read all instructions for installing your child’s car seat. You should refer to the instructions not only for the car seat but also for your particular vehicle. If you don’t feel confident in performing the installation correctly, take your vehicle to a local inspection station for verification or advice. Find a station near you by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website.

Keep Your Child in a Car Seat Until They’re Old Enough

Baby in a car seat playing with a toy
Image via Flickr by treehouse1977 Licensed BY-SA 2.0

Not every child will need a car seat, but it’s important that you learn your state’s age and size requirements for usage.

Guidance for Infants

In general, infants sit in a rear-facing car seat until the age of 2 or they reach the maximum height or weight for that car seat. Some car seat manufacturers have different height and weight guidelines for rear-facing positions, so the exact age your child transitions out of a rear-facing seat may depend on their development rate.

Guidance for Toddlers

Toddlers and preschoolers will typically sit in forward-facing car seats with a harness for extra security. Many forward-facing car seats can hold children who weigh up to 65 pounds, so they can be easily used for children growing through their toddler years. Although requirements vary by state, these car seats are generally used until a child is at least 4 years old and 40 pounds. Avoid putting a blanket or bulky clothing underneath any car seat’s harness, as these objects can make the straps less effective.

Guidance for Elementary-Aged Children

Children in the early elementary years no longer need a car seat, but they should sit on a belt-positioning booster seat. Exact requirements may vary by state, but children often need to continue using a booster seat until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall, and between the ages of 8 and 12. Once a child meets these requirements, they no longer need a booster seat and can buckle in with just a seatbelt. It’s also safer for children younger than 13 years old to sit in the back seat. Remember that these are all general guidelines, so be sure to check local laws and your vehicle’s guidelines.

Guidance for Older Children

If your child is old enough to ride without a booster seat, ensure that they always secure their seatbelt. You can make a habit of checking for them, but encourage them to make it a personal practice. This will establish good habits, and you won’t have to worry about whether they’re buckled in as you drive down the highway. Wearing a seatbelt not only protects your child in case of an accident — it may also help if you have to file a car accident injury claim.

Always Check the Back Seat Before You Exit the Vehicle

It may seem difficult to forget your child in the back seat, but it’s still a possibility. Always make a habit to look in the back seat so that you don’t forget your child and risk them developing heatstroke. Some parents like to do a roll call when they enter and exit their vehicle, to make sure every little one is accounted for. When your little ones can talk, they often enjoy turning it into a fun event by adding a noise or their name to the list.

It’s also important that you don’t leave your child unattended in your vehicle to run a quick errand. It’s not acceptable to leave a child unattended, even if a parent leaves the air conditioning on or plans to only be gone for five minutes. Leaving a child unattended puts their safety and health at risk.

Lock the Car When You Park It at Home

When you pull your vehicle into your home’s garage after a long day, you may or may not lock it. Some parents think it’s safe to leave their car unlocked if it’s secured in the garage. However, you should always lock your car if you have young children. This can prevent them from sneaking into the vehicle unsupervised and becoming locked inside it. You can also keep your car keys in a safe location away from children so they don’t open or start the vehicle while it’s in the garage.

Secure Loose Items

Secure any loose cargo items that you have in your vehicle. You can make use of storage compartments or place items in your trunk. Stowing these items out of the way will prevent them from becoming a projectile in the event of abrupt braking or a car accident.

You can also be mindful about what you give children while they’re in the back seat. Avoid giving them food, as the movements of the car may cause them to choke. If you have to feed them on a long road trip, stick to foods like squeezable applesauce and yogurts that don’t present choking hazards.

Encourage Your Children to Behave in the Car

Encourage your children to behave in the car, so you can drive without distractions. Emphasize the importance of remaining calm while the vehicle is moving and at stoplights. Before you get on the road, you can arrange some quiet activities. You may put a movie on a screen that sits on the back of a front-seat headrest. You may also give them a book or toy to play with, as long as the object isn’t small enough to become a choking hazard.

While you’re driving, keep the music volume low. This can help you keep tabs on what they’re doing even if you can’t look at them. Use the rearview mirror if you need to look at your child in the backseat. Only turn around to attend to them at a stoplight, and remain ready to drive again so that you can safely flow with traffic.

Having the proper auto insurance can give you and your family further peace of mind in the event of an accident. Reach out to our team at American Auto Insurance for a free quote, and we’ll help you purchase the right insurance package for your situation.


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