According to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, car accidents are the leading cause of death and injury for American children. Many of these deaths and injuries can be avoided with proper use of child safety seats and seat belts. While 97 percent of parents believe they install and use child safety seats properly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly 73 percent of child seats are installed and/or used incorrectly. The following are some important tips to keep in mind on child safety in and around motor vehicles:
- Kids of all ages are safest when properly restrained in the back seat. Never position a child in the path of a front air bag.
- Always keep a child secured in a child restraint. No matter how short the ride is, or whether they fuss or cry, your child should ALWAYS be properly strapped into a child safety seat when traveling in a vehicle.
- There are three common child safety seat misuses, according to the NHTSA. First, the harness straps securing the child are too loose. Second, the child safety seat is too loose. Lastly, the child is the wrong age and weight for the restraint used.
- Child restraint laws are different throughout the country and no law meets the universally-recommended standards set by safety experts. There are approximately 38 different child restraint state laws throughout the country. Even neighboring states could have completely different child restraint laws. For example, in Alabama, all children under the age of 6 years old must be in a child restraint. However, in neighboring Tennessee, the law requires all children 8 years old and younger, depending on weight, be in a child restraint.
- Take simple safety precautions before backing out of a driveway to ensure children are out of harm’s way. Before getting into the vehicle, check for children around the area, behind the vehicle and in the street. When backing out, roll down the window and listen to hear if children are playing near your car or calling out to you, check rearview and side mirrors for children (or pets) and honk to give a warning that you are moving your car.
- Children CAN open child-proof door locks. Child-proof door locks are designed to be opened from the outside by anyone. Some experts recommend you teach children 3 years old and older how to open the door when a child restraint lock is being used.
- Short trips do not necessarily mean safe trips. According to the NHTSA, 80 percent of fatal car accidents take place within 25 miles from a person’s home. It is imperative that all passengers, including children, be properly restrained every time they travel in a vehicle.
- Holding your child on your lap is not only unsafe, it is illegal in all 50 states. In a crash, the force of restraining a child will become so great that it is virtually impossible to hold on to a child, no matter how strong you are. Children should never be allowed to ride on your lap.
In addition to the information listed above, The Chrystler, Jeep and Dodge service specialists provide the following key points and reminders for child safety:
- Never leave a child unattended in a car.
- Always keep the car locked, including the trunk or hatch.
- Keep fold-down seats in the upright and closed position so children do not crawl into the trunk.
- Be sure to keep car keys out of reach and sight of children.
- If a child accidentally gets locked in a car and cannot get out, immediately call 911 for assistance.
There is no substitute for having a child’s safety seat professionally checked. Chrystler, Jeep and Dodge dealers offer two free services and informational Web sites to assist parents: SeatCheck, a toll-free hotline and Web site listing more than 3,000 child seat inspection stations across the country; and Fit for a Kid, a dealer-based child safety seat inspection service. To find a listing of a child safety seat inspection location, in addition to Fit for a Kid dealers, parents can call toll-free (866)SEAT-CHECK or log on to www.seatcheck.org. To find a participating Fit for a dealer, parents can call toll-free (877)FIT-4-A-KID or log on to www.fitforakid.org. Safety seat inspections are available by appointment at participating Chrystler, Jeep and Dodge dealers for anyone, regardless of make or model vehicle they drive.