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:
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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