We all know that seat belts save lives. But when it comes to transporting our children and pets, car safety is not so simple. Luckily there are guidelines – and resources – to help you keep your most valuable cargo safe when you’re on the go.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children 12 and under in the U.S. For that reason, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges parents to learn what they can about car seats, according to spokesman Derrell Lyles.
Car Safety Tips For Kids
When it comes to transporting your children safely, it’s all about the child’s size and age. The seat you buy for an infant is not the same seat you buy for a 5-year-old.
While car seat manufacturers will let you know the highest weight and height a particular seat can accommodate, the American Academy of Pediatrics has come up with general guidelines to help you know what to expect.
Infants and toddlers up to age 2 should face backward, in a rear-facing car seat or a convertible seat – one that can transition from rear-facing seat to forward-facing.
Children 2 and older and those who’ve outgrown the weight or height limits of a rear-facing car seat should be placed in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
Once your child has outgrown the height and weight limits of the forward-facing car seat, it’s time for him or her to move to the booster seat, a cushion that elevates your child so that the car’s seat belt can fit properly. While every child’s growth process is different, you generally can expect to need a booster seat until your child is 8 to 12 years old and about 4 feet, 9 inches in height.
Use Safe Kids USA’s Safety Belt Fit Test to determine whether your child is big enough for a regular seat belt. Have the child sit in the back seat. To be ready for a seat belt, the child’s knees must bend at the edge of the seat, the lap belt must lay low on the hips or high on the thigh, and the shoulder belt must rest on the collarbone and shoulder. If the child’s legs are too short to bend at the seat’s edge, the lap belt rests on the child’s stomach or the shoulder belt lies on the child’s face or neck, he or she should remain in the booster.
Other car safety tips
Knowing what car seat to buy isn’t the only thing smart parents should be aware of. You also need to know where your child should sit. Studies show that children are safer in the back seat than in the front. Kids who ride in the front are at risk of hitting the dashboard or windshield in an accident, being injured in the head or chest by an inflating air bag and being seriously hurt in a front-end collision, according to Safe Kids USA. If your child is under 13, child safety advocates say, keep him or her in the back.
Car Safety Tips For Pets
But what about our other children – the four-legged variety that often travel with us? The ASPCA advises pet parents to keep your pet in a well-ventilated crate or carrier that’s large enough for the pet to stand, turn around, sit and lie down in. If you don’t want to use a crate, Mallory Kerley, a spokeswoman for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), recommends getting your pet a safety harness that’s designed for car travel. Letting Fido stick his head out the window to catch the breeze is a no-no, as he could be hurt by a flying object.
Traveling with family can be one of the most rewarding things you can do. By taking time to consider safety, you can hit the open road with a worry-free mind.