Kids do plenty of risky things, but getting into the family car may be the most dangerous of all. Children are more likely to be killed or seriously injured on the road than anywhere else. But you can take some crucial steps to keep youngsters safe in the car, says Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research.
Start off right From infancy until at least age 8, your child will have to ride in a firmly secured car seat or booster seat. Check the owner’s manual—and AAA.com/carseat—to make sure you have the right equipment for your child and that it’s properly installed.
Move ’em back Never put a rear facing–only car seat in front of an active air bag. In a crash, the air bag can be more dangerous than the impact. All children under age 13 should ride in the backseat unless those seats are already occupied by younger children.
Stick with it Kids need a booster seat until they’re at least four feet nine inches tall or between 8 and 12 years old. Without that boost, an ill-fitted seatbelt can cause harm and won’t fully secure the child in a crash.
Talk to teens A parent’s job only gets harder when kids reach driving age. “The first six months after a teenager gets a driver’s license is the most dangerous time in his life,” Nelson says. Peer pressure, distractions, and inexperience are just some of the challenges.
Do as you say Studies show that parents’ driving habits heavily influence teen driving behavior. Talk to high school–age drivers about important safety concerns.
Illustration by Ron Chan
This article was first published in May 2014. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.