Imagine being on vacation with friends at a lake house, packing up to go home, lots of chaos with adults and children, vehicles moving in the driveway, luggage strewn about, and suddenly realizing you do not know where your son is.
“I just immediately knew, bolted for the door,” said Amber Rollins, director of Kids and Car Safety (KidsAndCars.org), a research and advocacy organization. “My two-year-old was behind a car and the driver would not have seen him. There is danger everywhere you turn. I was lucky enough to get there in time.”
Not every parent gets there in time. According to Parents.com, about 400 children under age 15 are killed each year after being hit by a vehicle. The CDC reports that more than 90,000 children are injured in auto-related accidents. As the parent of an 8-year-old daughter, my heart goes out to their families. More can be done to protect our kids in and around automobiles.
When I was a kid, my parents threw sleeping bags in the back of our station wagon so my sister and I could play and nap. That would be illegal now — not that most parents would countenance the idea, given all we’ve learned since then.
What’s the best thing parents can do to keep kids safe?
“It’s a no-brainer,” Rollins said. “Make sure they are in proper restraint for their age and size and buckled in correctly on every drive.”
And if you’re in a hurry to get your growing kid to the next and often easier-to-use seat, pump the brakes.
“Parents are eager to move to the next stage, but it’s actually a demotion of safety,” Rollins continued. “You can’t keep kids in safety seats forever, but leave them in until they are maxed out with height and weight. The overwhelming majority are installed incorrectly. Your local police and fire department can direct you to an instructor.”
It’s not necessary to buy the most expensive seat. My daughter had a red racing-style seat because she’s cool like that, but all seats are federally regulated to meet standards. Just be sure to try them out in your car before you commit, and read the manual thoroughly to understand your seat’s specific rules for installation.