Kids And Cars
Stephanie Tombrello (Child Passenger Safety Educator & Executive Director, SafetyBeltSafe USA) gives expert video advice on: What are the basic car safety rules that every child should learn?; How can I keep my child from misbehaving in the car while I drive?; Can my vehicle's sunroof or power windows injure my child? and more...
What are the basic car safety rules that every child should learn?
You want to have some general principals that you use when you have a child around in the car. One of the things to realise is you don't want children to think of a motor vehicle as a place to play. We have very rigid rules and we do several safety seat check ups. We don't even let children sit with their parents in the front seat during the time that we're looking at their safety seats, because we really don't want children in the front seat. You sometimes see parents who are playing with their children; sitting in front of the steering wheel and letting them play with the steering wheel. So, if a child gets loose in a situation like this, that's the first thing they're going to try to do. I also wouldn't suggest having children play with the keys to the car. Again, this gives them the idea that this is something that connects with a car, and they want to be like parents. They want to do what you do. Some of the incidents with children that have gotten into vehicles with out their parents' permission are very frightening, and some have been fatal. What happens is that the children some times are able to get the car started, either by releasing a break, or in a few cases they've actually turned the key and gotten the car going. When it starts to move is they oftentimes become frightened and they get out of the car, and when they do the car itself runs into them. Also, there have been children who have killed other children who were in the vicinity, because they got the car moving.
Can my vehicle's sunroof or power windows injure my child?
A sunroof and power windows can be very convenient for parents. But if a child is in a vehicle and is able to operate a power window either by error, or on purpose because they've seen parents do it, they can get their heads between the top of the window and the moving window pane. Then they panic and they can't reverse it. So we recommend that you have the type of power windows that can't be started by a child in error by pressing on something. In many vehicles you really can't operate the power window unless you're pulling up on it and you're thinking about doing it. And that does reduce the risk to some degree. But the main thing is not to leave your children alone in a motor vehicle. That is not appropriate. In fact, in some states, that is against the law.
Can I leave a child in a parked car if the car is not running?
We don't recommend leaving children alone in a motor vehicle. Certainly not children under age 12 because a lot of things can happen. Someone can take the car with the child in it, and that has certainly happened on a number of occasions. Children have been known to release breaks. Children can get out into a parking lot. You might be delayed much longer than you expect. Children can get out of the car and come look for you. There are many reasons not to leave children alone in a car. Parked or not.
Can I be arrested if I leave my child alone in a car while I run an errand?
In some states, you can definitely get a ticket if you leave a child, under a certain age, alone in a motor vehicle. In virtually any state, if the officer believes that this is a case of child endangerment, you can be charged. Then it will be up to the court to decide what happens. So, the major thing is to think about what could happen if your child were alone in the vehicle and something happened to you. You forgot about them because something distracted you, or something happened to you that you didn't anticipate and you couldn't get back to the vehicle. So, take the few moments that it is to unbuckle the child and take the child with you.
At what age can a child legally remain unattended in a vehicle?
The age at which a child can stay in a vehicle alone on a legal basis varies in our country from state to state. However, in some states, it's age twelve. In other states it's lower than that, maybe age six. If you think about this from the terms of your child, some of these children who might legally be allowed to stay in the car are also of an age where they can get out the car and explore or search for you, so you really don't want them to be alone in the car. It's worth remembering that state laws represent a political compromise. Don't use them as the ceiling for safety but instead think of them as the floor. This is the basic minimum. In any situation, if a child is seen to be endangered, this does become a question from that standpoint, so you don't want to get involved in something like that.