As we grow up, there is no doubt that the phrase “Drive safely” is continuously etched on our minds by everything and everyone around us. We are taught things like “Do not operate heavy machinery with these medications,” “Don’t text and drive,” “Always have a designated driver during drinking nights,” “Don’t go over the speed limit,” etc. Unfortunately, some people still move recklessly and rebel against these reminders. Therefore, it is up to us to be extra vigilant among freak accidents.
When we are driving with a child, this extra vigilance should turn into an extra, extra (yes, another extra) vigilance. Kids can become unpredictable due to their immature nature and curiosity, and having them in an enclosed space like a car might heighten their energy more. Car safety measures like a car seat, for example, is a great way to limit your child’s movements during the drive.
But as written by CuteLittleDarling.com, your child’s maturity in both physical and behavioral aspects is one of the critical factors in deciding with what kind of car seat he/she should use. Therefore, the correct way of driving with a child is not just about buying and putting any car seat in your vehicle. What are we trying to say? The proper way of driving with a child is influenced by a lot of factors and is not only limited to using car seats!
Always Have Your Child at the Back Seat
Let’s keep this clear, always sit your child on the back seat! If we can add an infinite amount of exclamation point with that reminder, we will. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping children ages 12 years and lower at the back seat.
The reason for this positioning is the airbags on the front seat. Airbags are designed for adults so that adult passengers won’t hit the dashboard or windshield during an accident affecting the car’s front end. However, because they are meant for adults, a child would be too small for an airbag.
When a car suddenly halts, the child might get pushed towards the inflating airbag on the passenger side. This contact between the child and the force of the inflated airbag can cause the child to propel against other structures inside the car, which is incredibly dangerous, and even fatal.
Other than the airbags, sitting on the front seat also means that your child is in closer proximity to the windshield. The impact from a crash can cause the passengers on the front seat to propel towards it.
We should also mention that as much as possible, have someone to supervise your child at the back seat. This way, someone can fix fights, especially if you have a lot of kids who love teasing each other. Remember, children are still not mature enough to maintain their “behave” state, and it will be easier for you to have a “separate eye” at the back instead of using your own eyes to keep glancing on your kids. Keep your eyes on the road!
Always Use Car Seats
Start with yourself and set a good role model by always buckling yourself in for every trip (even if the trip is short.) This is also an excellent technique to keep this safety measure a hobby. Since it has become a routine for yourself, you will always remember to keep your child buckled.
However, you can’t just use your vehicle’s seat belt with your child. Similar to airbags, seat belts are designed by manufacturers with adults in mind. Seat belts are effective in restraining an adult’s body during an impact, and it also distributes the force of that impact onto the strong bones of an adult. But because a child is physically smaller and has a tendency to move in awkward positions, the seat belt can do more harm instead of good.
When the seat belt fit to a child is incorrect, he/she can feel uncomfortable and move the belt towards dangerous positions in his/her body like the belly. Why is having the belt positioned in the stomach dangerous? For example, as graphic as it might seem, the stomach is a soft body area and the force during an impact can cause the belt to push through it. Uncomfortable seat belt positions can also cause lacerations and loss of body restrictions during an accident that can break vulnerable joints like in the head and neck.
Car seats are invented to make vehicle seat belts fit correctly on children. There are different types of car seats, but to explain it simply, one car seat uses its own restraint via its harness, while another type of car seat adjusts your child’s height so that he/she can fit appropriately on a seat belt. Car seats are also useful to let your child fall asleep safely compared to sleeping without restraints where their bodies can slump.
Study the Car Seat Requirements and Manual Meticulously
CDC recommends starting with a rear-facing car seat for a baby until he/she is around 2 or 4 years old. When they reach the maximum height and weight limit of the rear-facing car seat, your child can start using a forward-facing car seat until he/she is around 5 years old. Both of these mentioned seats have their own harnesses.
On the other hand, a booster seat uses your vehicle’s seat belt to restrain your child. Boosters are so-called because they “boost” your child’s height to get the proper belt fit on his/her body.
If you are traveling with a lot of children, always have them in their proper car seats. This way, their restraint is tailored to their bodies individually. And because their movements are limited, you don’t have to worry about the chaos in the back seat.
Besides checking your child’s height and weight, you should also check the seat’s personal manual to make sure you get the limits and requirements correctly. Another thing that you should never disregard are the attachments of the car seat itself on your vehicle. Always check all the latches and tethers!
Make Sure Your Child Has the Proper Belt Fit
The shoulder portion of the seat belt should sit across the child’s chest while the lap portion of the belt lays on the child’s upper thighs. The seat belt should have no twists as well.
Do Not Rush in Transitioning Your Child to the Next Car Seat Stage
As mentioned here, your child’s car seat should be able to accommodate their growth. Car seats with adjustable heights in their headrest and harness points are most likely to keep up with rapidly growing children.
It is also worth noting that it is safer if you wait for the child to outgrow his/her current car seat stage instead of rushing him/her towards the next stage. For example, if a child still always likes to slouch downward constantly, even if he/she has met the height and weight requirements for a booster seat, you can always opt to use a front-facing harness seat with a bigger capacity.
Look Back Before Locking the Car Doors
You see it happened in the news; parents forgetting their child inside a hot car. This accident is incredibly fatal, and it can happen to anyone, especially if they are tired or if they are thinking of other concerns at the moment. Compared to the dangers of leaving your child inside the car, it wouldn’t hurt you to take a final look inside your vehicle before heading out.
Are You Now Ready for a Car Ride with Your Child? Read This First
Besides following everything that we have mentioned, you should also bring some essentials when you’re driving with your child, particularly if it’s going to be a long trip. You can bring audiobooks, tablets, or some toys to keep your kid entertained throughout the drive. Another great tip when it comes to long rides is to schedule your stops for food breaks and bathroom breaks. This way, your child will be less predisposed to having sudden bursts of tantrums.
You should also bring extra clothes, towels, and diapers in case he/she needs to change. Sickness bags are also useful along with first-aid kits for motion sickness. Keep in mind that children will probably make sure to let you know if they are uncomfortable, and to make the car ride stress-free, it is up to you as an adult to be one-step ahead with every possible problem that might arise.
As we have mentioned earlier, it would be ideal to have someone supervising your kid/kids in the back seat. This way, you don’t have to be distracted while driving, especially if kids are getting noisy or if their toys fell from their hands. If something falls on the floor, your extra passenger can pick it up for you. Your whole focus should always be on the road, no matter how tempting it is to multi-task. If you are alone and you have to answer an important text or email, pull-up to the side of the road.
It is also useful to assume that other motorists will do something unpredictable, so it is safer for you to drive cautiously and never speed up. Always have three to four seconds of space between the car in front of you and yourself (increase your distance during a bad weather.), and stay alert with your surroundings.
Lastly, be knowledgeable about traffic, speeding, and car seat laws.