Cars help us bring the kids to school, get us to work, allow us to explore the world around us and generally make life easier – but they're also dangerous. As such, it's important to ensure that you and your children are safe in and around them. Whether you're behind the wheel or the car is parked in the driveway, your vehicle can present a threat to your youngsters if you're not careful. Thankfully, staying safe is easy when you know what to look for and what to teach your kids.
There are plenty of steps you can take to keep your children safe around your car. Start by getting into these habits:
Make sure car seats are being used appropriately: It's common knowledge that infants and toddlers should always be secured in car seats, but it can be harder to remember the rule for when kids are old and big enough to graduate to the next restraint system. The NHTSA's SaferCar.gov has a handy tool that helps you determine which type of car seat, if any, your child needs based on age, weight and height.
No matter which restraint system your child is using, it's also imperative to make sure you're buckling him or her in correctly. The NHTSA's National Child Restraint Use Study released this year revealed some of the common errors people make when using car seats. These included loose installation, lap belts positioned incorrectly, unused tether anchors on forward-facing seats and incorrect recline angle on rear-facing seats.
Never leave children unattended in a vehicle: This is a smart rule to follow all the time, as countless things could go wrong in this situation. On a hot summer day, a car's interior can reach threatening temperatures in minutes, even if you leave the windows open. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that a car's interior temperature can climb from 80 to 109 degrees in just 10 to 15 minutes. This can cause heat stroke in youngsters, as well as pets and the elderly, who are less able to regular their body temperatures than adults. Always check the backseat before you lock the car.
Keep the car locked at all times: For added safety, make sure your car is always locked so your kids can't get inside it when you're not around. To make sure they can't ever access your vehicle without adult supervision, keep your keys in a place they can't get to, whether it's on a wall hook out of reach, in your pocket or in a drawer they can't get to.
You should teach your kids all about car safety too. Find a time to sit down with them and explain these important lessons.
Cars are not toys or playgrounds: Children have wild imaginations and can find a way to make almost anything a toy, including a car. Even though cars may seem like the perfect hiding spot or a great pretend pirate ship, they need to be treated with respect and should not be used for playing, especially when there are no adults around. This includes the interior of the vehicle as well as the space around it. If children need to get a ball from underneath a car or they left a toy in the backseat, they should ask an adult for help.
Car seats and seat belts are not so bad: Finding new ways to get your kids into their car seats and seat belts can help avoid countless arguments and tantrums when you're trying to load the family in the car. Telling them why it's important might not work very well, but turning it into a game or a contest could be just what you need. For instance, whoever is strapped in safely first gets to pick the music or play with Mom's smartphone. A reward system might work too. Go with what works best for your family.
Don't walk and text: Smartphones, handheld games, tablets and other devices are pretty much glued to people's hands these days. But when you're reading a text or checking on your virtual pet while walking down the street, you're not watching for cars. Remind your kids to tear their eyes away from the screen while walking near roads, especially when they're crossing streets.
Keeping these safety tips in mind, and teaching them to your kids, will help your whole family have a safe, fun summer.
If your family is getting ready to trade in your current car, you should check out New Jersey State Auto Auction, which has hundreds of used cars available. New inventory is added regularly, so pack up the family and head down to the lot to check out the selection yourselves. Just remember to stay safe!