Car Safety Tips For Driving With Your Kids

Although many of our morning commutes and unnecessary trips have been disrupted or postponed in recent months, Americans still rely on their cars for any number of tasks. And while highways are certainly less congested than normal, roadway dangers remain. With more than 5,891,000 motor vehicle accidents taking place each year in the U.S. and speeding on the rise, it's essential for you to stay alert when you're behind the wheel.

That's especially true if you have kids in tow. Whether you're looking for a place to park (which drivers do for 17 hours per year) at the crowded grocery store or you're taking a day trip your family can safely enjoy in an outdoor location, you'll need to engage in safe driving behaviors to protect both yourself and your loved ones. Although 72% of car crashes result in property damage, you'll want to take every step possible to prevent any kind of accident. Here are our top car safety tips to keep in mind when you're driving with your kids.

Never Leave Kids in the Car

Now that temperatures are heating up, it's especially important for parents to be diligent about not leaving their children in a locked car. Even if you think it'll be just for a few minutes while you run a quick errand, this decision can be deadly. According to experts, the temperature inside a parked car can increase quickly -- and since the body temperature of a child rises three to five times faster than that of an adult's, spending just 10 minutes in a parked vehicle can potentially be fatal for a child. Children are more prone to developing heatstroke than adults, even when temperatures outside aren't extremely hot, and leaving the window down doesn't do much to prevent a deadly outcome.

As a rule, you should never leave your child in the car alone for any length of time. And while it might sound silly, parents should also be sure to check the backseat every time they exit the vehicle to ensure you haven't forgotten your child in the car. It's all too easy for many parents to go into auto-pilot mode, particularly if a routine has been recently disrupted or if sleep has been hard to come by. There are also apps you can use to remind yourself to check the car once you've arrived at a given destination.

Keep Children Out of the Front Seat

Riding in the front seat can seem like a special privilege to many kids, but it's one that they shouldn't experience until they're at least 13 years of age. The reason? The airbags in your car were designed to protect adults -- not children. In fact, the airbag can actually hurt a child in the event of a crash. Airbags deploy in under a twentieth of a second, which means that even adults should sit at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel. Since children are typically shorter than adults, they can often become seriously injured due to airbag deployment.

Children should sit in a car seat or booster seat in the backseat of your vehicle until they're at least 12 years old. Children who have outgrown their booster seats and are over the age of 13 can typically sit in the front passenger seat -- but you should move back the seat as far as possible to protect your child. It's best, however, if your children ride in the backseat to provide them the greatest protection.

Set a Good Example

Another thing you can do to keep your children safe -- not just in the moment but throughout their lives -- is to set a positive example for driving behavior. That means keeping distractions to a minimum, abiding by all rules of the road, and always wearing your seatbelt. If you make sure it's clear that phones should be put away, that directional signals should be used before switching lanes, and that going above the speed limit is never warranted, you can prevent potential accidents and teach your children a lesson they'll be able to look back on when it's time for them to get their own driver's licenses. This will also keep them safe even when they ride in someone else's car, whether it's that of another parent or of a friend when they become a teenager.

In the U.S., many of us equate owning and operating a vehicle to personal freedom. But with that freedom comes a lot of responsibility. When you're driving with the kids in the back, you'll want to follow all possible safety precautions in order to protect their lives and yours. While you can't control what other drivers do, you can do your part to ensure each ride is as smooth and uneventful as possible.

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