September 28, 2023

Accident Clinic

Child Passenger Safety: Practical Tips for Parents and Caregivers

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Did you know that car crashes are a leading cause of child fatalities in the United States? Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported that traffic accidents claimed the lives of 85 child passengers in 2022 alone. Nearly 50% of these young victims were not properly buckled up during the crash.  

If you are a parent or a guardian, you need to understand that child passenger safety is not just about following the law; it’s about keeping our youngest and most vulnerable passengers protected whenever they are on the road. From minor fender benders to more severe collisions, the impact can result in a range of injuries for the little ones that call for immediate, extensive medical attention.

While laws vary from state to state, the underlying message is consistent: securing your child properly is a non-negotiable responsibility. In this post, experts at our accident clinic will discuss some practical tips to equip you with the knowledge to ensure every journey with your kid is safe.

Proven Tips for Child Safety In Vehicles

Choose the Right Car Seat

One of the most important things you can do to keep your child safe in the car is to choose age-appropriate car seats, booster seats, or seat belts. Different types of seats are designed for different stages of the child’s development, and using the wrong one can put your child at risk of injury or death in a crash.

Let’s take a look at your options:

Infant car seats (rear-facing)

These are specifically designed for newborns and infants, typically up to 2 years of age. Rear-facing car seats, as the name suggests, face the rear of the car, which is the safest position for babies as it provides the best support for their head, neck, and spine. Remember, it’s not just about age; if your toddler outgrows the seat in height or weight before turning 2, you must upgrade.

Convertible car seats

You can change convertible toddler car seats from rear-facing to forward-facing, depending on what best suits children from birth up to 65 pounds or more. These are cost-effective options for parents, as one seat can serve your child for several years. However, confirm that you are using the correct mode (rear or forward-facing) based on your child’s age and how much they weigh.

Forward-facing car seats

Once your bundle of joy outgrows the rear-facing mode of the convertible seat, it’s time to switch to a forward-facing position. These seats have a harness and tether that prevent the child from moving forward during a crash. They are ideal for kids aged 2 to at least 5.

Booster seats

As children grow, seat belts in cars might not fit them correctly. That’s where booster seats come in. They raise the child so that the seat belt fits them properly—over the sternum and the center of the collarbone, not the neck or face.

Two main booster child car seat types are high-back (which provides neck and head support) and backless (which are more portable). Kids usually transition to booster seats after outgrowing forward-facing seats, typically around age 5, and continue using them until they are 8-12.

Seat belts

If your children have outgrown booster seats, they can start using seat belts if it fits them correctly. The lap belt should be tight across their upper thighs, not the tummy. The shoulder belt should be close-fitted across the chest and shoulder, and not across the face or neck.

Before you buy a seat, you may want to read up on car seat laws in Florida. Keep in mind that as your children grow, their car safety seat needs will change. This is not a one-and-done investment. For their maximum safety, you must stay informed and regularly check if their current seat is still the right fit.

Also, you should always follow the manufacturer’s car seat guidelines regarding proper use and installation and check the labels on the seat for the expiration date and weight and height limits. 

We recommend checking with a certified child passenger safety technician or a child car seat inspection station to make sure the seat is properly fitted and secured. Various nonprofits hold free car seat checkup events for local communities where an expert will teach you all you need to know about the right car seat positioning, car seat anchors, and car seat sizing. These professionals can help you with any questions and teach you how to use the belt correctly every time.

Photo of Children in Seatbelt

Buckle up the child on every trip

Now that you have the perfect car, remember the golden rule: put your toddler or school-ager in that seat on every single trip, no matter how short or long. And make sure they are sitting in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.

We cannot stress this enough: the back seat is the safest place for children to ride, as it protects them from the impact of a frontal crash and the deployment of airbags. Airbags are designed for adults, not children, and can cause devastating injuries to little ones sitting in the front seat.

If the child is wearing a seat belt or harness, double check it to ensure it’s snug and tight. As we mentioned earlier, the belt should fit across their chest and shoulder, not their neck or face. A loose or improperly positioned seat belt can cause more harm than good in a collision.

Avoid distractions while driving

This should go without saying whether you have kids in your car or not, but avoid using your phone, eating, adjusting the radio, or any other distractions that can take your eye off the road even for a few seconds.

In 2021, over 56,000 car accidents in Florida were caused by distracted driving. As per the data collected by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), 75% of these crashes happened because the driver behind the wheel was not paying attention to the road. 

When you are driving with your family, focus on the road and your surroundings, and not let anything divert your attention. If you need to give your child a snack, a pacifier, or a toy, pull over to a safe place and park before doing so. Plus, never ever give them something that could be a choking hazard or cause them to unbuckle their seat belt, like small hard candies, gumballs, grapes, lego pieces, small action figures or dolls, buttons, coins, etc.

Teach your child about car safety rules

If your child is old enough to go to preschool, it’s time to teach them about basic car and seatbelt safety habits, such as:

  • Staying seated and buckled up
  • Keeping their arms and legs inside the car
  • Not playing with the windows or doors
  • Not throwing objects inside or outside the car

Kids learn by observing and imitating their parents and caregivers, so set a good example by following these rules yourself and praising your child for doing so. Also, explain to them why these rules are important for their safety and comfort, and what could happen if they break them. A good way to do this is by using games, songs, or stories to make the topic of car safety fun and engaging.

Never leave children alone in a parked car

Leaving a child on their own, inside a parked car, even for a few minutes or with the windows cracked can cause heatstroke. The temperature in a car can rise quickly and become deadly for children, especially on hot days. Heatstroke can cause brain damage, organ failure, or fatalities in children and animals left in hot cars.

So always take your kids with you when you get out of the vehicle, even if you think you will be back soon.

As we advise new parents who visit our accident clinic, try to create simple habits to help them remember their child in the car. This could be placing their diaper bag in the front passenger seat or opening the back door every time they park. Lock your car when it is parked to prevent children from getting inside it alone.

Your Child’s Safety Post-Accident: Why Icon Medical Centers is the Go-To Choice

Accidents are every parent’s worst fear. But the unfortunate truth is that the unthinkable can happen no matter how careful and vigilant you are. When it does, our multi-specialty medical centers are here to help.

Located in Miami and Hollywood, Florida, Icon Medical Centers is renowned for its specialized care in auto accident and sports-related injuries. Our team comprises a dedicated group of board-certified physicians, orthopedic surgeon, and neurosurgeon who offer comprehensive care and treatments, including chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage therapy, pain management​​, and osteopathic treatment. Most importantly, each member is trained to handle the delicate nature of children’s injuries.

We understand that accidents don’t just leave physical scars; they can be emotionally taxing, especially for young ones. Our treatments address this dual challenge through a compassionate staff and empathetic interactions in both English and Spanish. 

For those juggling work, home, and now medical visits, our centers operate flexible hours, so you can find a slot that fits your hectic schedule. We also accept a wide range of insurance plans, including Personal Injury Protection (PIP), to ensure you never have to worry about how to afford quality medical care.

If you need help locating your nearest Icon Medical Centers in Miami or have any questions regarding the treatments we offer, call us at 786-882-0457 or reach out to us online.