Do you know everything you need to know to keep your children safe when in the car? With the right precautions, children of all ages and sizes can be protected from harm in the event of a crash.

Statistics about motor vehicle crashes are always scary, especially when kids are involved. Consider these unfortunate facts: 

  • A leading cause of death among children in the United States is fatal injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes. (Source: Centers for Disease Control)
  • The most common injuries to kids in a motor vehicle crash are injuries to the head/concussions, and injuries to the chest, organs, and back. (Source: U.S. Department of Transportation)
  • Children are 10 times more likely to suffer an incapacitating injury during a rollover accident. (Source: U.S. Department of Transportation)
  • 37% of children killed in 2017 in motor vehicle crashes were not buckled in at all. (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

The good news is that injury or death can often be prevented by following the laws and guidelines. Keep your kiddos as safe as you possibly can with these tips for protecting children while driving. 

Properly Restrain Your Child in a Child Safety Seat

Our littlest passengers are, well, little. Their small stature means they aren’t adequately protected by a regular seat belt. In fact, the way a seat belt fits a small child could even cause them harm. 

One of the best ways to keep children safe in a car? Car seats and boosters. These reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers, according to NHTSA. According to Arizona law, a child must be restrained in a federally approved child safety seat until the age of 8, and until they reach a height of 4 foot 9 inches.

You must change your child’s seat to the next size and type as your child grows.

Rear-facing seats: NHTSA and the Arizona Department of Transportation recommend that children ride in a rear-facing seat until they reach the top height or weight limit for that seat (at least until they are at least one year old and weigh 20 pounds). 

Front-facing seats: Move your child to a front-facing seat with harness straps when they reach the weight limit for their rear-facing seat. 

Booster seat: Once your child outgrows their front-facing car seat (as indicated by the manufacturer’s weight limits), you can move them to a booster seat. 

Child safety seats and boosters can be tricky to install correctly, so have your installation inspected by local authorities. In the Phoenix area alone, there are a number of resources, including the Phoenix Police Department’s Child Safety Seat Hotline and your local fire department. 

It’s also necessary that you register your car seat (something you can easily do online) so that you’ll get notified in case of a safety recall. 

Buckle Up the Right Way

When they graduate to a regular seat belt, always make sure they (and you!) are buckled up before driving. It’s time for a regular seat belt between 8 and 12 years of age, when they reach 4 feet, 9 inches tall. 

In order for a seat belt to do its job, the lap belt must fit comfortably across the upper thighs, rather than the stomach, with the shoulder belt across the neck and shoulder. The shoulder strap should never be worn under the arm, across the neck, or behind the back. (This is true for grown-ups, too.)

No Riding in the Front Seat

Sitting shotgun may be the coveted spot for any passenger, but for young children, this so-called perk could be deadly. In fact, studies have shown that children are twice as likely to be injured in a front-end crash than those sitting in the back seat. 

Remember that frontal air bags are designed to protect adult-sized bodies, not children, and if they inflate, they can be dangerous to a child sitting up front. 

In Arizona, there are no laws about when a child can sit in the front seat. However, many vehicle manufacturers say children under the age of 13 should not sit in the front. 

Follow these guidelines to keep everyone in the car safe and happy traveling to your destination. 

Need more safety guidance? Our driver’s education and defensive driving courses can help you learn everything you need to know about safe driving. Check out our schedule of classes today.