Parents and caregivers want to know that they’re doing everything they can to protect their family, especially on the road. Decisions about safe travel are important every day of the year, however during the month of September there’s even more emphasis placed on Baby Safety, with a full-week highlighting Child Passenger Safety awareness and education. As a Certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technician, I’ve helped families make sure their children are well-protected on the road. Here’s how to make sure all of your family trips, near and far, are as safe — and enjoyable (for all involved) — as possible.
- Make safe seating a priority. The importance of a good car seat cannot be overestimated. You wouldn’t buy a vehicle without taking it for a test drive, so if it’s possible, try installing the car seat in your car to ensure a proper fit before purchasing it.
- Protect your child from all sides. Head injury is the leading cause of death for children up to 12 years old involved in vehicle crashes and comprises 65 percent of injuries in both frontal and side impact crashes, according to Child Injury Led Design and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Fortunately, there are car seat manufacturers that develop car seats with advanced safety technologies that reduce the risk of head injury and protect children from all sides in the event of a vehicle crash. I advise parents to look for features that position a child lower on the seat to create stability in a collision, as well as features that work to counteract forward rotation of the child seat. Parents should also purchase a car seat with superior side impact protection. This is marked by features such as deep sides and head wings that are made from energy-absorbent material and an adjustable head support to minimize lateral head movement in a crash.
- Consult an expert. Improper car seat installation – or lack of a car seat altogether – can contribute to the death and injury of thousands of children each year. Approximately 96 percent of parents believe their child seats are installed correctly. However, about 70 percent of children are either not securely fastened in their car seat or are in a car seat that is not properly secured to the vehicle, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We know that car seats offer children the best protection during a crash when they’re installed and used correctly. Parents can find inspection stations and technicians throughout the year by visiting http://cert.safekids.org/get-car-seat-checked.
- Pack smart. You know how short your child’s attention span can be, so it’s better to come prepared with more activities than not enough. Audio books are a time-tested favorite for keeping kids occupied on long car trips. Ask your librarian to recommend the most popular titles for young children. Also, pack one Ziploc bag of snacks for each child before leaving, which will eliminate some of the bickerings in the backseat. Keep extra diapers in the trunk, as well as hand sanitizer, paper towels and small bags for garbage.
- Take regular breaks. Remember that a family road trip should be as much about the journey as it is the destination. Your baby will get just as tired riding for long stretches as you do driving them, so stop regularly for snack breaks and to stretch. If you have hyperactive, older children, keep jump ropes and beach balls in the trunk. When it comes time for a rest stop, find a picnic area to relax, play and enjoy the scenery.
The key to successful and safe family trips is in the preparation. If you’ve installed the proper car seat, planned the right activities and timed your journeys, the biggest worry on your mind will be how to answer that seventh cry of “Are we there yet?”.
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ABOUT BRITAX CHILD SAFETY, INC. (THE AMERICAS)
Premium car seat, stroller and accessories manufacturer, Britax tests and builds all of its infant through harness-to-booster lines of car seats in the U.S.A. using U.S. and global components. Britax engineers its car seats to meet U.S. and Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and makes significant investments in advanced technology, research and development to deliver safe products families can depend on. In 2011, Britax expanded its product line by acquiring BOB Gear, a brand that delivers high-performance strollers and stroller accessories. Britax Child Safety, Inc. employs more than 200 people at its headquarters in Fort Mill, S.C.