Although vehicle safety for the bigger kids headed back to school is of utmost importance, just having a decent car seat is not always enough to provide that cocoon of safety we want for our smallest and most vulnerable of the household, infants and toddlers. Child car seats are mandatory for children of certain ages in California and most states.
In California, the law is as follows:
Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat.
Children under the age of 8 who are 4′ 9″ or taller may be secured by a safety belt in the back seat.
Children who are 8 years and over shall be properly secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint system or safety belt.
Passengers who are 16 years of age and over are subject to California’s Mandatory Seat Belt law.
Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash. Also, seat belts are the best defense against impaired, aggressive, and distracted drivers (Source.)
Parents understand children must be placed in the back seat of moving vehicles for their own safety. Car accidents involving tiny children whose parents have taken responsibility by using child safety seats in the rear seat, has definitely reduced the number of children killed in motor vehicle accidents. There is one part of child safety that is not approached as often as it should be which are the injuries and deaths in children that occur in non-traffic situations. These are mishaps such as driveway and garage incidences where a child is struck by the family or neighbors vehicle.
Annually there are approximately 100,000 children involved in non-traffic accidents involving children 14 years of age and younger. These incidences involve backover and driving forward over a child in areas such as driveways, garages or parking lots. The number of this type of harm for children is nearly as high of a risk as the child being inside of a vehicle when there is a crash.
In these types of non-traffic mishaps approximately 70 percent of child injuries and deaths involve a family member as the driver of the vehicle. Rules for child safety and motor vehicles are essential, especially when the child is not inside of the vehicle including knowing where the child is before starting or moving the vehicle.
Children often want to say good bye or hello when the driver is moving in the vehicle, which means this is a danger for their safety and rules should be in place to ensure children are not behind or in front of the automobile. Younger children are especially endangered in this type of mishap, because of the height of a toddler and the driver’s ability to see a small child. Statistical data proves this out, with one and two year old children being at a greater risk of being harmed in forward or backover accidents.
Experts in child safety feel children should never be permitted to play near motor vehicles, whether the vehicle is in operation at the time or not. This could create bad habits for the child and automobiles should be thought of in the same manner by parents as other dangerous items, such as guns, knives or poison. Parents should teach children to stay within a safe distance of at least several yards from vehicles, even when they are not in operation.
Vehicles should be kept locked at all times to avoid children having access to a parked auto, since there have been incidences that have had tragic results when keys were left in the ignition. Unlocked doors or keys in the ignition means children could cause the vehicle to roll out of the driveway into traffic or actually start the auto.
The other issue locking a vehicle can prevent is a child getting in the auto and suffering from heat stroke. Removal of the keys will mean that children will not be able to be injured in power doors or windows. Children should be taught that automobiles are not toys and can be extremely dangerous when an adult is not present.
Parents should never leave a child alone in a vehicle, since many types of mishaps can occur including heat stroke when there is improper ventilation or air conditioning during hot weather. Even in short periods of time leaving a child alone in a hot car can result in tragedy. Thirty minutes is often all it takes for a vehicles temperature to become high enough a child will pass out from heat stroke or worse.
In some tragic incidences parents in a rush forget the child is in the backseat in a child safety seat when exiting the auto. Approximately 50 children die every year in situations where during warm weather a parent has accidently left their child in the vehicle and they have died of heat stroke. It is essential for parents to always check the backseat before locking the vehicle and walking away to avoid these types of tragedies.
Another suggestion is to place a stuffed animal in the seat next to the child, which will provide another object for parents to see looking in the mirror war over their shoulder before exiting the vehicle. Parents dropping children off at daycare in a rush to get to their job can set up a calling system with the daycare staff that if their child is not dropped off by a specific time and they are to call the parent. This is often known as an accountability agreement and its away to have a backup system to ensure the child is never left in the car during the workday.
Child Automobile Protection
There are some other ways to protect children inside of or around motor vehicles and some of these tips include ensuring the vehicle provides certain elements that help ensure child safety.
- Purchasing a vehicle should include checking the crash score ratings to ensure buying one that has a stop safety crash score to protect the family in the event of an auto accident.
- The vehicle should have an alert for when passengers in the rear seat are not wearing a seatbelt that is either a light on the dashboard or chime. Young children often unhook seatbelts and can put them in a vulnerable position in the event of a crash.
- When purchasing a vehicle, especially an SUV or pickup truck having a rearview camera can prevent children being backed over when the vehicle is in reverse.
- Vehicles with front and rear park assist can alert the driver when there is a child that may not be big enough to be visually seen by the driver. This is often an option that is costly, but can protect children from being hit by the family auto
- Vehicles with transmission shift interlock is a another choice that can prevent children if they get into the vehicle, since they could otherwise engage the transmission running into traffic, house or garage.
- Vehicles with auto reverse on power windows and doors can be a safety feature with children to prevent injury.
The most important factor in the safety of the little tikes, is that adults in a position of leadership rely upon their primordial instincts, and not take any risks that could put a small child in harms way. No matter what government mandated rule, or societal demand there is, in the end, these are your charges, not theirs. Laws and rules are a mere floor and not a ceiling when it comes to protecting the next generation. Be a zealous parent or caretaker and watch the risks of injury to children decline.