In order to combat these sobering statistics, NHTSA provides an informative booklet aimed at getting parents prepared for life on the road with their children. Available online in PDF form here, the information equips parents with useful knowledge such as what features you should look for in buying a car, which types of car seats you should use and how to properly do so and child safety scores for nearly every vehicle available today.
We highly recommend that every driver who has children, or is planning on having children, give this booklet a read and keep it handy for future reference. Here are some highlights from the publication:
Car safety features
NHTSA advises that you should ensure that a car has the following safety features if it is on your shopping list. Each one serves a specific purpose in making sure accidents, both minor and major, don't occur and, if they do, injury is minimized.
- Automatic door locks: Auto door locks, which engage when a vehicle reaches a certain speed (usually 10 or 20 mph), can prevent accidental door openings in a moving vehicle and the can lower the risk of ejection in the event of a crash.
- Push down/pull-up window switches: These minimize accidental window closure and prevent injury in the car. Older, rocker-type window can shut windows inadvertently if leaned on, trapping fingers and limbs.
- Advanced frontal air bags: These new types of air bags can sense the presence of a child and will shut off in the event of a crash or mitigate their release to minimize harm. NHTSA advises that kids should always sit in the back, but in the event that the front seat is the only one available, these air bags will keep your child as safe as possible.
- Side impact air bags: These air bags deploy during side impact crashes and when they do, they deploy very quickly. So while they can be helpful in preventing injury, they can also cause injury to smaller children. NHTSA says you shouldn't allow your kids to lean against the area where these air bags are stored.
- Anti-pinch/auto-reverse windows: These windows are designed to reverse direction if they're closing and sense something is in the way, eliminating the risk of body parts getting pinched or trapped.
- Trunk release levers: Most vehicles have this equipped. It allows someone to get out if they become trapped in the trunk.
- Rearview cameras: These will likely become mandated by law in the near future, but until then, they're an important safety option available on many cars or from aftermarket companies. They allow you to see a wide field of view while backing up.
Car seat 101
Given that three out of four car seats are being used incorrectly, according to NHTSA, the booklet focuses a good deal on getting that practice correct. From installation to daily use, car seats require proper attention and care in order to work correctly and safely.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Read the car seat manual and your vehicle's owner's manual. Every vehicle and car seat is different, so it's very important that you familiarize yourself with their installation and use instructions before you do anything at all.
- Place the car seat in the back seat.
- Secure it very tightly to the vehicle. It shouldn't move side-to-side or front-to-back more than 1 inch when pulled at the belt path.
- If you have a forward-facing seat with a top tether trap, connect it to the tether anchor and tighten. It's imperative that you do so, as it limits head movement in a crash.
- If you have a rear-facing sear, make sure it's installed at the correct recline angle. Most seats have angle indicators or adjustors that help you do so.
- Make sure your child is fitting correctly in the car seat after you've done proper installation. To do so, ensure that the harness is properly placed (lying flat, not twisted), the harness is buckled and tightened and the chest clip is at armpit level.
For more tips on child safety, head over to safercar.gov and get the full download. The site also has information on everything from combating distracted driving to driving in bad weather. Take some time out of your day and help make yourself a safer driver. You, your passengers and your fellow drivers will all benefit.
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