I'm happy to be offering the 7th installment in the Car Seat Safety Series, written by Megan Arce, CPST (Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician) and mother of two little princesses.
|Photo by Stefan Lilienthal|
This is the second part of the 7th installment in the Car Seat Safety Series, Vehicle Dangers. Last week, I discussed the dangers of projectiles. This week, I'm addressing other potential dangers when it comes to kids and cars.
Seat Belt Entanglement
Children are curious -- we all know that! And seatbelts are fascinating. They can also be deadly. A seatbelt with a switchable retractor is put into locked mode (it is in Emergency Locking Retractor mode when loose, but when pulled out to its longest length, clicks and turns into a “locking” seat belt, or Automatic Locking Retractor) it will continue to feed back in, but cannot be pulled back out. If a child were to wrap a belt around their neck, the belt can do nothing but get tighter and tighter as it feeds back in, which could ultimately cause death by strangulation. It is recommended that all seat belts not in use be pulled out, put into locking mode, and fastened so they are essentially taken out of play and become unusable. This is one of those tricky subjects, because talking to children about this danger could potentially pique their curiosity about seat belts that perhaps they never would have thought of on their own. You know your child best.
Air bags were created to help save lives, but air bags can also injure and kill those too small to withstand airbag forces. The safest place for children under the age of thirteen to ride is the back seat, away from the air bags! While I know it’s fun to allow children to sit in the driver’s seat and pretend to drive in the driver’s seat, they should never play in the front seat of a vehicle either. Air bags are sensitive, and could deploy from just a gentle tap from another vehicle. Although unlikely to happen, air bags could also malfunction at any given time. Children need to know that cars are not toys; they are not for playing in, and kids have no business being in the front seat until they are at least thirteen when their skeletons begin to mimic that of an adult’s.
Children Left Unattended
Children should never ever, for any reason, even for a second, be left unattended in a vehicle! They can be downright sneaky at times and many a child has been known to find a way to “Houdini” out of their own car seat, and many even manage to turn on the engine and put the car into drive, which could possibly end in a deadly crash. The temperature inside a vehicle can change quite rapidly as well, and babies are especially vulnerable to temperatures and are at risk for hyperthermia. Even on a relatively cool day, the temperature inside a vehicle will rapidly increase and become unbearable (over 100 degrees). Most of this climate increase happens within the first 15 minutes, so even a quick errand is too long to leave a child as a number of unexpected things could happen to delay you from returning to the car quickly. Leaving a window cracked does very little to slow the rise of temperature either. Far too many children die each year of hyperthermia from being either left in the vehicle on purpose or forgotten. It goes without saying that a child can also be kidnapped from a vehicle when left alone, or can figure a way out of the vehicle and simply wander off. Leaving a child alone in a car isn’t just extremely dangerous, it is also illegal! I will repeat: never ever under any circumstances leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle -- not even for a second!
Children Outside of Vehicle in Blind Spot
I love the backup camera in my vehicle. In fact, I don’t know how I ever managed without one. Backup sensors and cameras are becoming standard features in many vehicles, which is fantastic, considering vehicles just continue to be made larger and larger, which only means even bigger blind spots to potentially hide children from view and accidently run over them while backing out of a driveway. Children ages 4 and under are small and fast and therefore most susceptible to this avoidable tragedy. A few years back, a nonprofit group created a public service announcement depicting a woman checking her mirrors in a large SUV before backing up. She was unable to see any bit of the 62 children sitting directly behind her vehicle. Sounds impossible, I know, but it’s true, meaning it is a million times more challenging to just see 1 child back there.
Educate your children about vehicle safety – it can help save their lives. Buckle up all passengers, store and/or secure all loose objects in the car, don’t let children play on, in or around cars, and check, check and double check your surroundings before backing out of your driveway -- every single time! And, of course, make sure car seats are installed and used properly -- keep those babies safe!
“When you know better, you do better!”
Click the following links to learn more about keeping your kids safe in the car:
Car Seat Safety Series
Part 1 -- Airplane safety
Part 2 -- Car seats and winter coats: how to keep the little ones warm (and SAFE)
Part 3 -- Extended rear facing and extended harnessing
Part 4 -- LATCH vs. seat belt
Part 5 -- Correct harness use
Part 6 -- Car Seats Expire, Too!