19 Infant & Toddler Car Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know

How do you practice car safety for toddlers and babies? Here are 19 car safety tips for infants and toddlers that every parent should know.

We’ll discuss car seat safety tips and general car safety for young children.

We’ll also address how to be proactive against different potential vehicle hazards for infants & toddlers, including situations that could lead to hot car death.

QUICK DISCLOSURE / DISCLAIMER:
This post contains affiliate/referral links to helpful products/services we use and/or trust. We may receive a commission at no extra cost to you, if you choose to purchase or sign up through one of these links. All information on our website is for informational purposes only. We are not liable for you acting or failing to act on anything you see or read on our site. We are not medical experts. Parents are responsible for making their own parental decisions and seeking advice from qualified medical professionals. See our full Disclosure/Disclaimer policies here on our Terms of Use page.

1.) Use a safe car seat or booster seat appropriate for your infant/toddler’s age & size that fits well in your vehicle.

an asian baby girl sits in a purple car sit that fits well in her parents' car safely

You’ll want to look into the safety recommendations and legal requirements for where you live.

THIS brand for car seats for newborns & babies is my favorite because it stays securely in place in the car.

✅This model (shown below) is a convertible car seat. It’s appropriate to use rear-facing for infants & toddlers and then turns into a front-facing booster seat for toddlers and kids. (It comes in a few different designs.)

chicco convertible car seat 4 in 1 for babies, infants, newborns, and toddlers, front-facing and rear-facing on Amazon

✅This model car seat (shown below) is specifically for newborns and babies.

chicco infant, newborn, and baby car seat that fits with travel system, bestseller on Amazon

This is the brand I have (pictured above) and I love it. It comes in a few different color schemes.

(There was a different, well-known, high-rated brand I also had. But the car seat would literally tip/slide around in multiple cars, so not all car seat brands are equally safe.)

✅This booster seat is Amazon’s choice and is highly rated.

graco booster seat rated well, amazon's choice

Multiple reviews from parents say this model booster seat kept their child safe in crashes. (I like this brand for booster seats for toddlers, but not for car seats for smaller infants.)

2.) For newborns and smaller babies, use a newborn insert to support their head.

a newborn baby has a newborn insert supporting their head in their car seat

You will usually need a newborn insert even with car seats that are designed specifically for newborns.

This supports your newborn’s head and keeps their head from falling down or bouncing around in the car.

Some car seats come with them, but not all do. I personally would never take a newborn anywhere in a vehicle without proper head support.

3.) Make sure the car seat or booster seat is properly set up before each trip.

a car seat is installed in the back seat so it is ready to use for car trips

Don’t ever leave a car seat in place, but uninstalled. Either remove it and place it in a safe place elsewhere (if it’s still in the car then make sure it’s placed in a way that it’s obvious it’s not installed,) or take the time to install it properly.

You don’t want to accidentally buckle your child into an uninstalled car seat, (thinking it’s installed when it’s not.)

Read the manufacturer instructions for your child’s car seat or booster seat to make sure you have it installed correctly. And you’ll want to be sure to place it in the back seat and in a seat that accommodates the way it needs to be installed. 

Note: Some booster seats for older toddlers aren’t designed to be installed prior to the toddler getting buckled. But with other models this is a concern, especially car seats for younger children.

Install your child’s car seat/booster seat in a back seat where they are safest and air bags are not a danger to them.

4.) Teach your child to sit safely in their seat.

a toddler boy sits properly and safely in his car seat

As kids get older, they may wiggle their booster seat around, play with their seat belt, touch the door handle, or do other things that can make them unsafe in a moving vehicle.

But as parents, we need to instruct and monitor our kids so they don’t do things that endanger them. Even when it comes to the car door, we want to teach them to keep their fingers out of the way when the door is opened and closed.

Tip: Use a reward chart (such as this free printable sticker toddler reward chart,) to reward your toddler when they show safe behaviors.

5.) Never leave a baby or toddler by themselves in the car.

a toddler girl is sitting by herself in a van without an adult

When you go to a store or gas station and need to run in, or drop something off to someone, always bring your toddler or infant with you.  

If your toddler goes grocery shopping with you and you want to get them in the car before returning your cart, make sure you park right next to a cart corral so you aren’t leaving the vicinity to return the cart. If there isn’t a place to return carts literally right next to your car, bring your child with you to do it.

Don’t ever walk away from a vehicle with your child inside.

6.) Keep your car keys on you so you don’t accidentally lock your child & the keys inside the vehicle.

a woman is holding car keys in her hand after getting her baby in the car

Some parents/adults have accidentally locked children in the car.

This can occur just in the brief time between getting a child buckled and trying to get in the car themselves. 

The same can be true when you have arrived at a destination and exit the car.

Whenever you get yourself or your child in or out, make sure you have your keys on you before closing the door. (You don’t want to close your door and then realize your child’s door is locked!)

Note: I also use a similar rule in general when I travel alone. I always have my keys in hand/on me before getting out of the car. And I use the button on my keys to lock the car after I am outside of the vehicle.

7.) Make sure your baby/toddler is dressed appropriately and the temperature of the back seat is appropriate.

baby is dressed warm in their car seat

Of course, we want to dress our children appropriate for the weather.

Keep in mind, though, that infants can get overheated in their car seat. This can easily happen when they’re snuggled in their car seat in a warm car, even when there are freezing temperatures outside.

Depending on the outdoor temperature versus the internal car temperature, you may need to add or take layers off of your child once they’re in the car.

Young infants and toddlers cannot regulate their temperature the same way adults can. So this is an important concern both when they become either too warm or too cold.

8.) Avoid feeding your baby/toddler in a moving vehicle to prevent choking hazards.

a toddler girl is eating in the car as she sits in her booster seat

There are already increased risks for drivers who eat in a moving car.

But eating in a vehicle can be a danger to young passengers as well, who may not understand to take smaller bites or could choke easier.

If a child is choking and out of sight, you won’t know because they can’t breathe to yell or talk.

So it can be a danger to let young children eat in a car while you’re driving.

A responsible adult should always be in view and monitoring a child the entire time they’re eating.

On the topic of eating, make sure your child is not biting or eating any part of their car seat, as this article from Forbes warns about.

9.) Make sure the other adults/passengers in the car are also buckled.

an adult buckles up in the car

Making sure all passengers in a vehicle are buckled up can keep your child safer in an accident.

But it also sends the message to your child that buckling up and safety are important for everyone.

10.) Ensure there are no hazards within the car. 

a newborn is in their car seat with a loose blanket over them

Be careful that there are no loose heavy/sharp objects within the car that could be a hazard to your child or become an additional danger in an accident.

For infants & younger children, you’ll also want to watch for simple items within your child’s reach. Watch out for items that could be suffocation hazards, such as plastic bags. Even blankets can be suffocation hazards for babies.

You’ll also want to make sure the vehicle is visually safe. Try to keep items in your car from impacting your line of sight so you can clearly observe your surroundings.

11.) Check on your child/infant periodically during longer car trips.

a mother pulls over to check on her newborn daughter

Pull over/park in safe locations during longer trips to make sure your child is doing alright during your travels.

I would check more often on newborns/infants, especially while they are still within the age-range that’s at risk for SIDS. Babies often fall asleep and nap in the car, so this could be a concern while you’re driving.

✅This is a great shatterproof car seat mirror. You can put it inside your car to monitor your child, especially newborns/babies in rear-facing car seats.

car seat mirror for infants in rear facing car seats, shynerk baby car safety shatterproof mirror on Amazon

12.) Always check the back seat for your child whenever you exit the vehicle to prevent hot car death.

an empty baby car seat in the back seat of a car

Some people keep an object in the back that they always carry, such as a purse, wallet, or phone. 

This is probably one of the most important things you can do for hot car death prevention.

✅This product- Ride N Remind- has a beeping system to remind you to check the back seat for your child. (The only downside is it needs to be installed by a mechanic/car shop so there is an additional one-time cost after the purchase.)

Many parents aren’t intentionally irresponsible, but some have forgotten their child was in the car. And this has sadly ended in hot car death in many instances.

A baby or toddler may fall asleep and be completely quiet. The adult may not be used to having a child with them all the time. They may be overtired and less focused because of losing sleep taking care of a newborn, etc. 

One time when I was a new mom, I came home from an errand and walked in my house. I took a couple steps and then realized my baby was still in the car! So I realized in a terribly sobering way how easy it can happen to anyone.

Thankfully, my baby was fine and was sleeping in the car. But imagine if I hadn’t remembered right away, especially if it had been a hot day, (it was a milder season at the time.) There could have been an entirely different ending to this story. 

I am a stay at home mom. But sometimes my husband or mom would watch the baby when I ran errands. So I didn’t always have my baby with me. 

So even when you ‘know’ your baby isn’t inside, have a consistent habit of checking the back seat. Opening the back door, leaving an essential item back there, etc., can help you prevent a tragedy. 

13.) Be cautious about leaving windows down or unlocked & use child locks when appropriate.

a toddler has her fingers on an open car window and is sticking her head out

Lowered windows can be dangerous for curious toddlers who want to lean out. Young children may also put their hands on a closing window.

For this reason, some parents keep the windows up and keep them locked. Whenever you have a window down or are putting it back up, monitor your child closely.

Child locks prevent your child from opening the car door from the inside, especially while you’re driving. Curious little hands like to grab and pull things. So activating child locks can be necessary sometimes.

14.) Make sure your child’s arms, legs, hands, head, etc. are out of the way when the vehicle door is being opened & closed.

a mom carries her baby to the car after shopping

It’s important to watch this both when you’re carrying your child, and when your toddler gets old enough to walk independently.

This is something that we should teach our children about so they don’t get hurt (as mentioned in Tip #4.)

15.) Never keep your vehicle running in an enclosed area (such as a garage.)

car keys are in the ignition of a running vehicle

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a huge danger and can occur with a running car in any enclosed area.

Never leave your car running in a garage. It can turn deadly even when the garage door is open. Note that the carbon monoxide can also leak into an attached home.

This is something that could be a danger for anyone, at any age. So don’t leave your car running if it is even in a partially enclosed area.

16.) When you aren’t using your vehicle, keep it locked with the car keys out of reach.

car keys hanging on hook on the wall out of reach of children

Some small children have snuck into a vehicle, at times when their parents or caregivers were sleeping or distracted.

Sadly, a toddler sneaking into a vehicle has resulted in hot car death in some instances.

We want to teach our children not to go outside/in a car alone/without a trusted adult to begin with. But it’s also wise to take practical safety precautions.

17.) Teach your toddler what to do if they ever get locked in a car.  

a little girl practices beeping the horn in case of a future emergency

At the time you deem appropriate, teach your child what to do if they get locked inside a vehicle. You’ll also want to prepare them for other potential emergencies.

The previous tip may in itself help to prevent this. But we should also teach our children to know what to do in different scenarios.

Use discernment for what, when, and how much you tell your child. 

For example, showing a toddler how to unlock the car door or how to unbuckle can be a double-edged sword. You wouldn’t want them to practice this while you’re driving. 

But on the other hand, if your child was ever in an emergency situation and locked in a car, you’d want them to know how to escape.

You might tell them to climb into the front seat and how to beep the horn to get someone’s attention/attract help.

Show them how to unlock and open a door that doesn’t have a child lock in case of an emergency. And there are other things you’d want them to know to do in different situations.

Each child is different. We have to consider the appropriate age to teach them- when they can handle the knowledge in a responsible way.

18.) Ensure your vehicle itself is safe to drive.

a mom of a newborn is watching as her car gets repaired

Don’t put off any repairs that affect the safety of your car. Whatever the cost, it is nothing compared to the value of your child’s life.

Get your car inspected on time and maintain & change things like tires, oil, and your brakes, whenever needed.

It’s also essential to choose reliable mechanics and car shops that do quality work.

I learned this hard way.

I once went to a shop that failed to put a part back on after they changed the oil. This put us in danger on a trip out of town because we were leaking oil and didn’t know why.

19.) Only let your child ride with someone who drives safely.

a lady is talking on her phone and distracted while driving and a toddler girl is standing unbuckled

From newborn to toddler and beyond, don’t put your child at risk by allowing them to ride with unsafe drivers. This includes family and friends who may be well-intentioned but are dangerous behind the wheel.

Of course, you want to be a safe driver yourself. Be alert, don’t use your phone while you’re driving, and avoid getting behind the wheel while you’re overtired. You also want to make sure you don’t have any substances/medications in your system that jeopardize your driving skills or reaction time.

So those are 19 different ways to keep infants and toddlers safe in the car. By taking precautions and teaching our children, we can travel with them safely.

If you have a toddler: don’t forget to grab your free toddler sticker reward chart before you go.

Have great day and thanks for reading!

RELATED POSTS

mom holding baby with the car door open so she can get her baby in the car seat before they leave

5 Things to Do Before Taking Your Baby for a Ride

A young toddler boy is sitting in a red cart at the grocery store

Stress-Free Tips for Grocery Shopping with a Toddler

a red safe toddler car seat

How to Practice Car Safety for Babies/Infants & Toddlers/Preschoolers

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *