Child Safety in Vehicles

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the U.S., and many could have been prevented. How? With the proper safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt. At Direct Auto & Life Insurance, we take safe driving seriously, especially when it comes to driving with kids. From how to choose a car seat to when to switch to a booster, here's some helpful tips for keeping your child safe in the car, whether they're a baby or a teen!

The Basics of Keeping Your Child Safe in the Car

First, familiarize yourself with the basic stages of safe seating. Simply using the correct car seat or booster seat could turn out to be a lifesaver.

From birth up to age 2...use a rear-facing car seat, and install it in the back seat. (Unless your child reaches the upper weight or height limits for that particular seat, which you can check on the seat's owner's manual or tags.)

From age 2 to at least age 5...use a forward-facing car seat, and install it in the back seat. (The same guideline about your child's height and weight applies here. If they outgrow the seat before the age of 5, it's okay to advance to the next seat.)

From age 5 until a seat belt fits properly…use a booster seat, and install it in the back seat. A booster seat "boosts" your child high enough so that the car's lap and shoulder belt restrains him or her properly. Without a booster seat, a child could actually be injured by a poorly fitting adult seat belt in the event of crash, rather than protected by it.

Once a seat belt fits properly without a booster…buckle them up in the back seat! How can you tell if a seat belt fits correctly? The lap belt should lay across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt should lay across the chest, not the neck.

Did you know? The safest spot in your vehicle is the middle of the back seat. When possible, seat your child here.

Even though you may have your child in the right seat for their height and weight, you may not be using it properly. The CDC estimates that 46% of car and booster seats are misused in a way that could reduce their effectiveness.

Most, if not all fire stations will install your child's car seat for you, completely free of charge. There's actually such a thing as "child car seat inspection stations," too, with certified technicians who are trained to educate parents and caretakers on the proper installation and use of car seats. To get your current car seat inspected or to learn how to properly install one yourself, visit SaferCar.gov to find a child car seat inspection station near you!

Child Passenger Safety Laws

Every state has laws related to child passenger safety in vehicles, though requirements vary by age, weight, height, and state. Many laws require that children ride in the rear seat whenever possible. After a child reaches a particular age, height, or weight, most states will permit children to use an adult safety belt. Failing to comply with a state's child passenger safety laws could result in a fine of up to $500 and, in some states, you could receive driver's license points as an additional penalty (and points are not something you want on your driving record).

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 48 states require booster seats for children who have outgrown their car seat but are still too small to safely wear an adult seat belt. Four states (California, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania) mandate that any child under the age of two must be in a rear-facing car seat.

Read up on your state's child passenger safety laws in the AAA Digest of Motor Laws so you're not caught off guard!

General Safety Tips When Driving With Kids

  • Don't forget them in the back seat! Make it a habit to look for your child before you lock the car. Mobile phone apps, like Kars 4 Kids, will alert you when you leave your car to remember that there's a baby in the backseat. The free navigation app, Waze, can also alert you to remember that someone's in the back, even a pet!  Putting your purse, computer bag, etc. in the back seat is another easy trick.

  • Keep them buckled up. Of the children ages 12 years and younger who died in a crash in 2014, 34% were not buckled up, reports the CDC.

  • Wear your seat belt too! Set a good example by wearing your seat belt.

Do you know your state's child passenger safety laws? Stop by your local Direct Auto & Life Insurance office to talk to one of our agents. If we don't know the answer, we'll be sure help you find it. Safe driving is a top priority for our agents!

More Resources for Parents

Child Safety in Vehicles
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