Hot Cars and How to Protect Your Kids
Car Seats and Belts
As children grow, it’s important to select a car seat that fits them (size and age). Installation is important – not all car seats fit in all cars and incorrect installation reduces the seat’s ability to keep children safe.
- Rear-Facing (Birth – 2 years): These seats have a harness and position your child so he/she is facing the back of the car. This is the safest position to protect your child’s neck and spinal cord. There are three types of rear-facing car seats: rear-facing only seat, convertible seat and the 3-in-1 seat. If you have an infant rear-facing only seat, your baby may outgrow that seat by 7-8 months. You should then buy a convertible seat and keep the child rear-facing until age 2, or until he/she reaches the height and weight limit allowed for the seat.
- Forward-Facing (Over 2 years): Your child is ready to ride in a forward-facing seat when he/she has outgrown their rear-facing seat. These seats have a harness (five-point restraint) and can sometimes also transition into a booster.
- Booster (Typically 4-8 years): Boosters “boost” your child’s height so the seatbelt fits properly when he/she is ready to wear one. You can find them with or without a back. Even in a booster, your child should always sit in the back seat.
- Seat belt (Over 8 years): Once your child can fit in a seat belt properly, they no longer need a booster (typically around 4 feet 9 inches tall). The lap belt should fit across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt should fit across the shoulders and neck.
All children under 13 should ride in the back seat. It’s the safest way for your child to travel!
Remember to buckle up – every ride, every time.
The inside of a car can get hot – even after only a few minutes. A child can overheat quickly, leading to heat stroke, which can cause serious brain damage and death. Though many states have laws about keeping children in cars safe, caregivers play the most important role in preventing hot car deaths. The majority of hot car deaths occur when a child was unknowingly left in a vehicle or entered into the vehicle on their own.
Be Aware and Stay Alert
- When you get out of the vehicle, make sure everyone in the car leaves the vehicle too, even if you're only stopping for a minute. And lock all doors.
- Communicate clearly with others. Don’t assume someone else is taking your child out of the car.
- Always check the backseat before you get out of the car. Parents and caregivers can forget they have the baby in the backseat, especially if the child is quiet or has fallen asleep.
- Create reminders such as putting your purse, phone or other important item in the backseat.
- Put the child’s diaper bag or teddy bear in the front seat with you.
- Talk out loud to your baby while you are in the car together.
- Have your babysitter or day care call you if your child isn't dropped off that day or make a habit of checking in with your child’s caregiver after you drop him/her off.
- Be calm, careful and conscious. Mistakes happen when people are tired or distracted. Do not zone out, and pay close attention to small changes in your daily routine.
And Don’t Forget…
Leaving the windows down or the air conditioning on is NOT enough to keep your child's body at a safe temperature for long.
Your babysitter or child's caregiver needs to know and follow these guidelines, too.
If you see a child left alone in a hot car, call 911 immediately.
Many accidents happen in or around vehicles when they are parked or idling. Most times, the adult does not know children are around. Below are a few tips to help prevent accidents from happening:
- Before you get in the car, walk around your car to check for children.
- Stay close to children around vehicles. Hold their hand when walking near moving or parked cars.
- Don’t ever let children play in parked cars or garages.
- Lock your car doors and trunk so that children can’t get in on their own. Keep keys out of reach.
- Teach children to move away from a car when the driver gets in. Have them walk to a sidewalk or somewhere else away from the car where they can be easily seen.
Here are other valuable websites to help you keep your kids safe in the car:
- Child Safety, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- SaferCar.gov (car seat recall information), from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Safe Kids USA
- HealthyChildren.org, Car Seat: Information for Families
- HealthyChildren.org, Car Seats: Product Listing
- HealthyChildren.org, Car Seat Checkup
- HealthyChildren.org, Car Seats for Children Who Are Overweight or Obese: Suggestions for Parents
- HealthyChildren.org, Prevent Child Deaths in Hot Cars
- Texas Department of Public Safety, Child Passenger Safety Information