Riding Rules for Tots and Teens
By Jayne O'Donnell
Beyond the basics--children shouldn't sit
in front of an air bag, infants need to be in rear-facing child seats--take
note of these tips regarding kids and cars that you probably haven't heard.
Car seats and coats don't always mix.
Before you buckle your baby in a child safety seat during the cold winter
months, take off bulky snowsuits and coats. The child seat harnesses won't
work as effectively if there's all that cushioning between the baby and the
belts. Instead, use blankets to keep your baby warm. (By the way, the same
goes for grownups and their winter wraps.)
Some rearview mirrors can be dangerous.
Watch out for mirrors sold to help you keep an eye on your rear-facing infant.
Many suction onto the back window or otherwise attach to the back of the car.
In a crash-or even if you just stop short-the mirror can go flying and hit
your baby or other occupants in the head.
An unlocked auto is a hazard waiting to happen.
Always keep your car locked, even if you live in the safest of neighborhoods.
During 2000, at least 32 deaths were attributed to kids being left unattended
in or around cars. And that's not just from joyriders-this includes young
children who became locked in trunks. It happens because in many vehicle
models, children may be able to pop the trunk (from inside or outside) when
the car's unlocked, or access the trunk via a pass-through in the backseat.
Not all safety belts save lives.
Beware of safety-belt adjusters, sold in stores, that are designed to make
adult safety belts fit kids. These devices are not tested or regulated by the
federal government and may, in fact, decrease the effectiveness of a vehicle's
safety belts-especially for very young children. General Motors does offer a
built-in belt adjuster that the company tests with its belts, and the
government says it's okay. Otherwise, if your car's safety belts don't fit a
child under 80 pounds, buy a booster seat.
There are rare instances when young kids are safest sitting up
While children younger than 13 are generally safest sitting in the back seat
of a vehicle, here is an exception: If you drive an older model car that
doesn't have a front passenger-side air bag, does have a three-point safety
belt in the front passenger seat, and only has lap belts in back. In this
case, a child who can no longer fit in a front-facing child safety seat but
doesn't yet fit the vehicle's safety belts properly on his own is best off
sitting up front in a booster seat, using the vehicle's lap-shoulder belt.
When riding shotgun, it's best to be empty-handed.
Never allow a passenger sitting in the front seat of your car to hold toys,
games, or anything else that would come between him and a deploying air bag.
At least one child has been seriously injured when the bag hit a toy in front
of his face.
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