As parents, you want to protect your children from danger. When it comes to the car, however, your kids may be in more danger than you think.
To keep your children safe while you drive, follow these five simple tips:
1. Always use a restraint device
Child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injuries to infants and toddlers by 71 percent and 54 percent, respectively, according to the American Automobile Association. Older children are 50-percent less likely to sustain a fatal or serious injury when they're wearing a seatbelt. There may be times you're in a hurry or your child rejects a car seat, but avoid letting that become an excuse to hold your child or not use a restraint device.
2. Install your car seat correctly
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration found in 2015 that 46 percent of car seat installations are done improperly, to the point that they offer less protection to their young occupants. Read the instructions, both in your vehicle's and the seat manufacturer's user manuals. If you're not sure, get your car or booster seat inspected by a professional. You can find a local inspection station on safercar.gov.
3. Don't use a risky car seat
As tempting as it is to search online classifieds for an inexpensive second-hand car seat, it may not be in your child's best interest. If a car seat has been in an accident or has been damaged in some other way, it could pose a risk to your child's safety. Unfortunately, it's impossible to verify those things simply by looking at the car seat. What's more, car seats weren't meant to last forever. Over time, the material they're made of can wear out. Because of this, they all come with an expiration date. Thus, it's generally best to buy new to ensure your child is as safe as possible.
4. Face your child in the right direction
Transitioning your child from riding rear-facing to forward-facing feels like a milestone. It allows you to be more interactive with your child and may offer them comfort if they otherwise struggle in the car. The Academy of American Pediatrics recommends you wait to do so until your child is 2. This recommendation, however, isn't legally binding. In fact, Nebraska, like many states, doesn't have strict child restraint laws. As far as young children go, the only binding law in Nebraska is all children under age six must ride in a car or booster seat.
5. Avoid the extras
The goal of a car seat is to keep your child as immovable as possible in case of an accident. Abstain from using any clothing that could cause the harness to be loose, such as a bulky winter coat or a heavy blanket under the harness. Also, avoid keeping anything in the back seat that can become a projectile, including mirrors, heavy or hard plastic toys and sippy cups. In other words, if you wouldn't throw it at your child's face, it doesn't belong.
While the chances of you getting in a car accident are low, following these tips and checking with your local auto expert to ensure your vehicle's safety and mechanical needs are met will help your child — and you — have a safe ride.