As a parent, there is no way around having safety concerns for your child, regardless of their age. When it comes to driving, safety is paramount from the moment you take your child home for the first time up until they start driving on their own.
Statistics show that the most significant cause of death for 5-25 year-olds is road crashes. You can use this road safety for parents guide as a way to ensure you understand the best and most practical methods to keep your child safe on the road.
Newborns and Toddlers
Parents concerned with road safety need to understand that children of average size need to ride in a car or booster seat up until the age of 7. However, if your child is small, it is possible that they may need to stay in a booster seat longer.
Each car and booster seat has its own recommendations when it comes to model, build, and design, so it is essential that you familiarize yourself with all warnings and recommendations. There are nearly 200,000 car and booster seat-related injuries annually, so installation depending on weight and size is a must.
Understanding Car Seats
Car seats are specifically designed to ensure newborns and small children remain safe while in the car. Depending on the car seat and the manufacturer’s instructions, they can be designed to face forwards or backward. Government regulations now state that all vehicles manufactured after 2002 need to have a minimum of two car seat anchors in the back.
When it comes to the placement of your car seat, most are designed to face forward and backward, but studies show that it’s safer for the seat to face backward. Car seats also need to meet regulations, and to do this, make sure you don’t purchase used car seats so that you know the seat has been assessed and approved.
You can use these vital car seat tips to help you understand car seats more and to help you choose one:
- Read Owner’s Manual: Your car seat’s owner’s manual comes with a lot of great information that you are going to need. It also lets you know how to anchor your seat, so you have a general idea of the design you need to purchase in the future.
- Go Over Manufacturer Recommendations: By law, the manufacturer of the car seat is required to state the child’s height and weight that each seat is approved for. Don’t purchase a car seat that your child has exceeded.
- Look at Your Backseat: Because there are a variety of models and designs of car seats, not all of them are going to fit your back seat properly. As an example, if your backseat is small, a car seat with a broad base is unlikely to fit.
- Installment: Car seats are often taken in and out of the vehicle to make more room, to clean it, or to carry the child if it’s a dual seat and carrier. It’s best to look at car seats that are easy to install, so you don’t end up frustrated during the installation process.
- Register Your Car Seat: It’s imperative that you register your car seat before installing it in your vehicle. This ensures your child’s safety because you are going to get notified if there are any recalls.
Car Seat Age Groups
Regardless of your child’s age, as long as they fall within the manufacturer’s height and weight limits, you can keep them in the car seat for as long as you want. Older children can ride in a car seat if they are within the specifications, and it’s a decision that you, as a parent, need to make.
Every state has its own laws concerning car seats, so it’s a must that you brief yourself on the rules in your state. Some of them are very different from others. Additionally, there are other safety rules for different ages. Here are some to consider:
- Newborns to One Year: It’s possible for a child under the age of 1 to get injured by a front seat airbag while facing backward, so it’s essential that you have a rear-facing car seat for your child.
Depending on your budget, infant seats and convertible seats are recommended to protect your baby. Convertible seats are usually recommended because they can get adjusted as your child grows. Always remember to keep your car seat the same until your baby reaches the requirements. They are designed for height and weight, not age.
- One to Seven Years: Once a child turns two, you can consider facing them forward, though safety recommendations state that the child is kept in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible. Convertible seats allow you to decide without purchasing a new one.
If your child is over 22 pounds, it’s likely safe to face them forward. As your child ages, there is a good chance that they are going to fuss about getting into their car seat. However, to ensure your child remains safe, you can’t give in. Car seats that are installed correctly are the best way to protect your kid.
When your child gets to the point where they have grown out of their car seat, you might think that it’s okay for them to sit in the backseat with just a seatbelt; that isn’t the case. Most times, your child is still far too small to safely sit in the back with the seatbelt.
If the shoulder strap of the belt in your car is too high, it can cause severe injuries to their neck. There’s also the potential of them putting the strap behind them when you aren’t looking and only using the lap belt.
If you continue to use a safety seat such as a booster, your child’s chances of injury can get reduced by nearly 50%.
Understanding Booster Seats
All manufacturers design booster seats to protect young children who exceed the requirements set by car seat manufacturers. The vehicle’s seatbelts get used to secure your child in place, but it’s the seat itself that lifts your kid up so that the seatbelt strap and lap belt fit adequately.
You can typically purchase booster seats backless or high-backed. Safety studies suggest that the high-back models are safest in a vehicle with a low backseat, whereas the backless models are suitable for backseats that provide their own head and back support.
If you aren’t sure how to install a booster or car seat, try consulting with the place that you purchased the booster from, or directly contacting the manufacturer for assistance.
Choosing Booster Seats
Similar to car seats, there are multiple things that you need to consider before you make your final purchasing decision. Here are some things to think about that might help you along the way:
- Child Readiness: It’s crucial that you don’t assume that your child is ready for a booster seat because of their age. Car seats measure by weight and height, not age. If they are still within your car seat’s requirements, it’s a great idea to keep them in it until they exceed the requirements.
- Backless or High-Backed: Both backless and high-back booster seats are very different from each other. While backless booster seats are typically cheaper and offer belt positioning; your vehicle’s back seat is going to be the deciding factor. High-back boosters are usually safer and have a shoulder strap that keeps your child in place.
- Child Comfort: Most places that you shop in are going to have floor models readily available for you. It’s recommended that you test one out with your child so that you can see if they are comfortable and if they fit the model. Ultimately, you want a booster that is going to lift your child so that they can use your car’s seatbelts without worrying about the straps digging in.
Using Booster Seats
Most children are ready for booster seats around the age of 4 and 7. Ensure that your child has entirely outgrown their car seat before you decide to transition them over to a booster seat to prevent injury. Just because other kids that are the same age as your child are in booster seats, doesn’t mean that your child is ready for one.
Just like car seats, booster seats need to get placed in the back seat. However, unlike car seats, you are likely going to have to install the booster seat behind one of the front seats.
Middle seats in vehicles don’t usually have shoulder straps, which are needed for your booster. If your car does have a shoulder strap in the middle, it’s okay to install your booster there.
Your child needs to stay in the booster seat until they can safely sit in the backseat with the seatbelts fitting them properly. This is going to vary depending on your child’s height and size, but under most circumstances, by the time your child reaches a maximum age of 12, they can use your car’s seatbelts safely.
Keep in mind that even once your child can safely use seatbelts, it’s safest for them to continue riding in the back seat to avoid being injured by the airbag in the case of an accident. Once their bodies are taller and stronger and they’ve hit their teenage years, it’s safe for them to ride in the front passenger seat.
As your child grows to be a teenager, new road safety for parents arise. Once your kid is old enough to sit in the front seat with you, it means that they are reaching their teenage years, and it’s time to get ready to teach them about driving safely. It’s likely that they are going to be driving on their own within a few years, and if you want to make sure they understand road and vehicle safety, starting early is key.
The responsibility of teaching your child how to drive ultimately starts with you. As you are still driving them around, they are slowly going to pick up on your driving habits.
They are going to notice where you position your hands on the steering wheel if you let yourself be distracted by your cell phone or GPS, whether or not you follow road rules, and more. Because your child is likely to develop your habits, it’s critical that you make sure you use the right ones.
Here’s some excellent advice to follow when it’s time for you to start teaching your teenager how to drive responsibly on their own:
- Knowing What to Expect: Not all teenagers are going to be ready to drive when they turn 16, so make sure that you respect and understand their wishes. Children learn at different paces, and if they aren’t ready, everything you teach them won’t last.
When your teenager is prepared to learn, show them everything you can about where their hands need to be positioned, road signs, the importance of speed limits, and other safety rules that they need to follow. Start your child off with practice driving in empty spaces such as parking lots, pay attention and stay alert, and once they are comfortable, drive through different weather conditions.
- Setting Boundaries: Your job isn’t over once your teenager gets their license—not if you want to keep them safe. You need to set strict boundaries based on their driving habits and continue to remind them and enforce the rules and dangers of the road.
Additionally, you need to make sure that your child understands that they are never to drive while impaired, and set a curfew for them as driving during the night is riskier. It’s also suggested that you install a dash cam so that you can monitor your teenager’s driving on video.
As a parent, protecting your child on the road is going to be a concern to you from the time that they are born until they get their driver’s license. Even once they receive their license, it isn’t going to keep you from worrying.
Parents have a huge responsibility when it comes to road safety and their children. It might seem like a never-ending and daunting task, but it’s one that you need to prepare yourself for if you become a parent. The job never ends, regardless of your child’s age, but when they are taught correctly, you start to worry less as they develop experience.