Even if you’re the most experienced driver, car safety should be at the top of your list, especially when you’re travelling with children. Krupa Joseph tells you what to keep in mind to ensure a safe journey
It’s no secret that the road is a pretty unpredictable place. Unfortunately, even if you’re the safest driver out there, you may have to contend with irresponsible motorists. With nearly 1.3 million people killed and 20 to 50 million injured every year in road accidents globally (according to the WHO), no one is ever completely safe on the road. In India alone, there were a reported 1,37,572 road traffic deaths in 2013, according to WHO data. The temperature in a closed car rises quickly, usually going up to almost double the temperature outside. Add to this the fact that a child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than that of an adult’s and it’s enough of a reason to follow car safety rules to the T. When children are old enough, you should also teach them about the importance of being alert on and around the road, even when they are not in the driver’s seat. Here are a few tips that could help you out.
CAR RESTRAINT FOR TODDLERS
- Avoid buying second-hand car seats, because it is almost impossible to tell if they have been damaged simply by looking at them. If you are getting one from someone you trust, that may be different, but it’s best to buy one that is most suitable for your car and your child.
- Before you buy a car seat, find out whether you can fix it in your car properly and securely. Only buy a car seat once you’re absolutely sure that it is the perfect fit for your requirements.
- Refrain from using a front-facing car seat until your child is at least 2-years-old. Studies suggest that children under 24 months old are five times more likely to be seriously injured if they’re in a front-facing seat. A rear-facing car seat does a better job of supporting a young child’s head and immature neck and spine, because it distributes the impact of the collision over their entire body.
- The safest place for a car seat is in the centre of the back seat. If you have more than one child, place your younger or smaller child in the centre.
WHEN YOU’RE IN THE CAR
- Even if your baby launches into a crying fit while the vehicle is in motion, do not take them out of the car seat — not even for a minute. The sound of a baby crying can be distracting for the person driving. However, it is important to remember that your child’s safety depends on them being properly restrained. If you want to take them out, pull the car over, comfort your child and then hit the road again.
- It’s safest to have your child in the back seat until they are at least 12-years-old. A child who is below 4-years-old should never travel in the front seat of a car.
- Children learn from the adults around them, so set an example and practice good car safety yourself, such as wearing your seat belt.
- Make sure that you have activated the childproof locks in your car. Even if you have told your children that it is unsafe to get out of a moving vehicle, they could fidget and unintentionally endanger themselves by playing with the locks.
AROUND CARS & ON THE ROAD
- Make sure that your children never go anywhere unsupervised until they are at least 10-years-old. They may not understand the dangers of the road.
- Don’t impart a ‘do as you’re told’ attitude when it comes to car safety. It’s best that you help your children understand the need to be alert and the reasons why they shouldn’t go out on the road by themselves. Once they manage to get a grasp of the dangers, they are less likely to flout your rules.
- Keep your child happy in the car. Driving with irritated or bored children can be a distraction for the driver. Simple things like having an interesting conversation with them or turning on the radio can keep them occupied.
THE HEAT ISSUE
As we mentioned earlier, cars can heat up very quickly, and overheated cars can cause children to suffer from rapid dehydration and hyperthermia (heatstroke), and there is a risk of suffocation and death. The younger your child is, the greater the sensitivity to heatstroke, and the faster they could get dehydrated. Never, under any circumstances, should you leave your child alone in a car.’