• 9 ways to improve your own automobile safety

Automobiles are an integral part of our daily lives. They bring us to work, take our children to school, and they are often the source of leisure and pride for countless people. It is easy to forget and ignore how dangerous riding in a motor vehicle can be since we do it so many times a day. Most of us have been in or know someone who has been in an accident, and the statistics show just how important it is to make sure our cars are as safe as possible.

Unfortunately, automobiles cause the most unintentional injury-related deaths for children under the age of 14. Children under the age of 4 are twice as likely to be injured or die in a car crash if they do not use safety restraints. To protect children from injury or death, parents and guardians should practice proper use of safety restraints and become aware of high-risk vehicle situations. Included below are some tips for child safety within motor vehicles.

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1. Carefully Research Your Automobile Purchase.

In recent news, there have been many car recalls, involving the world’s top automobile manufacturers like Toyota, Honda, and Mercedes Benz. These cars were recalled because the manufacturers discovered or received multiple complaints of the cars having faulty features and suddenly engaging in dangerous, erratic behavior.

If you are buying a used car, it is important to check and see if there have been any recalls on the model. You can find information on recalls on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s web site (https://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/). When deciding to buy a car that is either new or used, there are available documented ratings on the car’s quality, and it is important to read them first.

2. Avoid Common Car Issues.

When a consumer purchases an automobile, it is important to make sure that it meets proper safety standards and is in good running condition. All new cars manufactured and sold in the U.S. must have an airbag built in. Problems arise when the airbag does not go off, so it is important to check that you are buying a car with good ratings on the airbag’s performance.

All cars come with seatbelts and it is against the law not to use one. Many people who are in fatal accidents do not use seatbelts. Common, law-abiding sense when either driving or riding in a car is the most important component in automobile safety. Drivers should also take their cars to an auto mechanic annually for service and inspection. It is important to ensure that the car’s brakes and tires are working properly along with the engine and other features that need to be reliable.

3. Pay Attention to the Road.

Distracted drivers cause the majority of accidents, more so than any cars with design and production defects. When you take a car onto the road you need to make sure that you keep your eyes and mind on the road and your hands on the wheel. While occasional distractions may come up, it is important not to yield to them. Drivers must avoid things and activities that cause distraction, especially factors that cause more than one kind of distraction for the driver. Eating or drinking allows the driver to still see the road, but by taking a hand off the wheel as well as thinking about another activity consists of two distractions that the driver has just created.

4. Avoid Extreme Driver Distractions.

Entering a car in a state in which you are unprepared to fully take on the responsibilities of a driver is the worst kind of driver distraction. This kind of distraction consists of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is against the law in every state to operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Before going to a bar or party where alcohol is present, make sure that there is a designated driver with you who will remain sober, or if this is not possible take a bus or taxi. It is also illegal in many places for people to talk on their cell phones while driving. Studies are showing that driving while talking on a cell phone is even more dangerous than driving drunk. If you find that you must take a call while you are driving, the best thing to do for everyone’s safety is to pull over.

5. Use Safety Restraints for Children.

Because children are small, vehicle safety belts do not fit them properly. As a result, safety belts are not appropriate protection for children during a car crash. The first automobile tip is to use safety restraints.

The type of safety restraint to use depends on the size and age of the child. Types of restraints include infant safety seats, child safety seats and child booster seats. When choosing a restraint, make sure it is compatible with the make and model of the car it will be used in and is the proper size for the child. Using child safety seats reduces the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for children between the ages of 1 and 4.

Children are often removed from safety restraints too soon. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that children do not fit in adult shoulder/lap belts until they are 58 inches tall and weigh 80 pounds. Older children who have outgrown safety seats should use a booster seat in addition to a seatbelt.

6. Check the Installation of Safety Restraints.

The second automobile tip for child safety is to check the installation of all safety restraints. Studies show that 85 percent of child safety seats are improperly installed. If a seat is used incorrectly, death and injury are not prevented and can be made worse. When it comes to child safety, the NHTSA recommends that you follow these six guidelines:

  • Make sure your child rides in the back seat
  • Make sure your child faces the correct way
  • Ensure the child safety seat is secure
  • Make sure the seat belt/harness buckle fits firmly but snugly across your child
  • For children in the 40-pound to 80-pound weight range, make sure he sits in a booster seat
  • Make sure your older child fits properly in the vehicle’s seat belts

Parents should also check periodically to see if their child’s safety seat has been recalled. After a crash, a new safety restraint should be purchased as the old one may have been damaged and is unsafe. Parents can also find many government and nonprofit organizations that will check to make sure a restraint has been installed properly for free.

7. Avoid Airbags and Cargo Areas.

While saving adult lives, airbags can endanger children during an automobile accident. Cargo areas in pickup trucks and SUV’s are also unsafe and can increase the risk of dying 10 times during a crash. The third automobile tip is to avoid airbags and cargo areas.

Airbags inflate at speeds close to 200 mph. When striking a child, an airbag can injure their head or neck, and even cause fatal injuries. Cargo areas are just as dangerous, and children can be ejected during an accident which is the main cause of death for cargo passengers. In a covered cargo area, passengers are in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning from exhaust fumes. Over half of the deaths caused by riding in cargo beds are children and teenagers. The safest place for a child to be is in the rear seat.

8. Do Not Leave Children Unattended in a Car.

Never leave children unattended in a car. Left alone, children are likely to explore and get into trouble. A child might be able to trap themselves in the trunk which could lead to asphyxiation or hyperthermia. They may also be able to start the car or disengage the parking break. Very hot or cold temperatures can also result in injury or death to children left unattended in an automobile.

Teach children to not play in or around cars, and always lock the vehicle. Keep the keys to any vehicle away from children, and never leave them unattended in the car.

9. Take a Driver’s Education Course.

If you have further uncertainties of what to do when driving a car, it’s a good idea to take a licensed driver’s education course. Even if you have been driving for years, people are prone to forget and laws do change. As we all know, it is better to be safe than sorry.