Staying safe in a vehicle is more than just being properly buckled in with a seat belt or having your child in their car seat properly. In addition to checking the car seat, there are a few other things to do to make sure that the people in the car are safe.
1. Car Seat and Seat Belt Check
Every time you put your child into a car seat, you need to check that:
- the seat does not move more than 1” side to side at the belt path (where the LATCH or seat belt goes through the car seat)
- if you’re using an infant seat:
- be sure that it is attached firmly to the base
- the handle is in the correct position for riding in the vehicle (this may be printed on the seat itself, but it is also in the owners manual)
- the once the child is in the seat, the harness needs to be tight (you should not be able to pinch the harness straps at all)
- This will require you to remove the child’s heavy clothing, including winter coats
- the chest clip is at the child’s armpit level
For those riding with the vehicles seat belt, with a booster or without, please check:
- the lap belt goes across the hips, not across the stomach
- the shoulder belt is away from the passenger’s neck
To test if your child is ready to ride without a booster, please follow the 5 Step Test.
Once everyone is in the vehicle properly, there are a few other things to keep in mind.
2. Loose Objects
Newton’s 1st Law states: An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an unbalanced force acts upon it.
This means that if your vehicle is traveling at 60 km/hour and it comes to an abrupt stop (ie. you slam on your brakes, or you collide into something), everything that is not tied down will continue to go 60 km/hour.
- snow brushes/ice scrapers
- toys, sippy cups, water bottles
- metal coffee mugs
- tissue boxes
- big map books
You want to make sure that there is nothing that will fly around the vehicle and become a projectile in a collision. These flying objects have the potential for doing severe damage.
It is best to keep everything in the glove box, trunk or back of the vehicle under a cargo cover rather than on a seat or the floor.
Driving your vehicle and being aware of the other drivers on the road is your number one focus. Keep any thing that could be a potential distraction away from the driver. Cell phones and other tech devices are huge issues for drivers today.
Your children can also be a distraction. You should never turn around to see the people in the back seat. The mirrors that let you see your rear-facing children are also a distraction. If you need to take care of an issue that is happening in the car, pull over to a place where you can stop safely and are out of harms way.
If you are the driver, you should be doing nothing but driving.
4. Getting comfortable
Long trips can be difficult when everyone has to sit for long periods of time. Passengers may want to stretch out. However, this isn’t safe.
How many times do you see people driving down the road and the passenger in the front seat has their feet up on the dashboard? What is going to happen to them if they collide into something and the airbag deploys? Your feet and legs will be pushed back at you violently and this would cause serious injuries.
Also, you need to stay in the seated position with the back of the seat upright. Lying down while the vehicle is in motion is very dangerous. If the vehicle is to stop suddenly, there isn’t anything holding you to the seat and you risk sliding under the lap belt.
If you are going on a long trip, plan for breaks so that people can get up and stretch. If required, stop long enough for people to take a nap.
5. Safety Kit
It is best to be prepared in case there is an emergency.
Your safety kit should include:
- 12-foot jumper cables
- Four 15-minute roadside flares
- Two quarts of oil
- Gallon of antifreeze
- First aid kit (including an assortment of bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, antiseptic cream, instant ice and heat compresses, scissors and aspirin)
- Extra fuses
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Flat head screwdrivers
- Phillips head screwdrivers
- Vise Grips
- Adjustable wrench
- Tire inflator (such as a Fix-A-Flat)
- Tire pressure gauge
- Roll of paper towels
- Roll of duct tape
- Spray bottle with washer fluid
- Ice scraper
- Pen and paper
- Help sign
- Granola or energy bars
- Bottled water
6. Road side assistance
The police advise drivers to stay in their vehicles if they are having car troubles, especially if you’re in the drivable lane and/or on a highway. I have been in this situation and was very thankful that I had someone I could call.
The companies that offer this service usually offer different levels of services with varying degrees of help (ie. the distance allowed for towing). The different levels of service have different pricing levels which will allow people to buy what they need.
Please keep all of this in mind the next time you get into your car, whether it is to go to the corner store or across the country.
Have a safe trip!
Wendy is a Mom, wife and Certified Car Seat Technician (since 2008) who has a passion for child safety. You can read all about her adventures as a Mom of two at www.mapsgirl.ca.