You can take action to limit the risk of children being hurt in a car accident. This 5-part handbook shares important tips, insights and information that can empower any parent to keep children safe when they are passengers, drivers, pedestrians or bike riders. The sections cover:
- Statistics on Children in Car Crashes
- Car Seat Use Guidelines & Tips
- Teen Driver Safety Tips
- Child Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Tips
- Tips on How to Safeguard Yourself & Children after a Car Crash.
The Grim Statistics: Car Accidents Are the Top Cause of Injury & Death for Children
Recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveal the tragic reality that vehicles and the roads can be very dangerous places for children:
- The number one cause of injury-related death for those 19 and younger is traffic-related motor vehicle accidents.
- Every day, at least 6 children (younger than 15) are killed and nearly 700 others are injured in auto crashes.
- Drunk driving is a factor in about 21 percent of traffic-related deaths among children.
- About 49 percent of traffic-related deaths impacting children occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.
- Spring and summer – when kids are getting out of school and tend to be on the roads for longer periods of time – are the deadliest seasons in terms of traffic deaths for children. This is due to both the increased risk of car crashes and of heatstroke in cars (when children are left in them).
- In the event of a crash, child car seats can reduce the risk of deadly injuries by about 71 percent (for infants 1 and under) and by just over 50 percent (for toddlers who are 1 to 4).
Auto accidents kill more children than any other cause – and, the latest stats show, that 9 in 10 car crashes are preventable.
How to Keep Babies, Toddlers & Small Children Safe in Cars: Child Car Seat Guidelines & Tips
For any child shorter than 4’9”, this simple chart explains how to properly buckle them in.
Car Seat Details
|2 & under||Rear-facing child car seat|
|2 to 6||Front-facing child car seat|
Once children are at least 4’9” tall, they won’t need the booster seat any more. However, the NHTSA strongly recommends that children younger than 12 continue to sit in the backseat (so they won’t be harmed by airbag deployment).
Here are some additional things to keep in mind when it comes to child car seats:
|Before buying a child car seat||• Check out the NHTSA’s Ease-of-Use Ratings when shopping for child car seats.
• Make sure the seat fits in your car before buying it. Check out the NHTSA’s guidelines for the best type of car seat, based on the type of vehicle you drive.
|When buying a child car seat||• Buy an age-appropriate child car seat.
• Be careful about buying used child car seats because you may not know if they’ve been involved in a crash before.
|After the purchase||• Thoroughly read the car seat’s instructions and manufacturer’s guidelines before installing it.
• Reference the instructions so you know when to change the orientation and/or configuration of the seat (based on manufacturer’s age and/or weight limits).
• Always place child car seats in the backseat.
• Take your vehicle to a child car seat inspection station to assure it’s properly installed.
• Register the car seat with the manufacturer so you can be promptly notified of any issues or recalls affecting the seat.
• Promptly respond to any recalls, and use this tool to find any reported issues or problems related to your child car seat.
When Your Kids Start Driving: Teen Driver Safety Tips
When your kids move from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat, things can get more complicated – and scary. In fact, as the NHTSA reports, motor vehicle crashes kill nearly 2,000 teens and injure about 99,000 others every year.
So, as your children learn to drive and navigate the roads on their own, here are the most important driving safety issues to discuss with and instill in them:
- Always obey the speed limit.
- Never drink and drive.
- Put the cellphone down.
- Be especially careful when driving with teen passengers.
- Always wear seatbelts.
Speeding, drunk driving and driver distraction are leading causes of teen driver accidents – and all of them are 100 percent preventable. These teen driver misbehaviors tend to occur more often when teens are driving around other teens, so it’s especially important to discuss this fact with your new teen driver(s).
When it comes to keeping teen drivers safe on the roads, it can also be helpful to:
- Use technology to promote safe driving practices with new teen drivers – For example, certain apps can disable cellphones while cars are in motion, cutting down on driver distraction.
- Place some restrictions on when teens can drive and who they can transport – Limiting or prohibiting teens from driving around their teen friends can be smart as your kids gain experience behind the wheel. Similarly, since most teen driver crashes happen between 9 p.m. and midnight, limiting or restricting nighttime driving can also be a good move.
- Talk to your teen about what to do after a crash – You may even want to print out a wallet-size list of the steps to take after an accident, so your teen has it handy if a crash happens. These steps are discussed in more detail below.
Street Safety for Children: Tips for Child Pedestrians & Bike Riders
Regardless of your child’s age, the risks and dangers of the road don’t disappear when your child exits a vehicle. In fact, they can be intensified due to factors like:
- A lack of protection – Children are particularly vulnerable to injury and death when they are pedestrians or bicyclists, as there is no vehicle framework or safety equipment (like airbags) to absorb the impact of a crash.
- Visibility issues – Children can be difficult for motorists to see, especially when they are in drivers’ blind spots, when weather conditions are poor and when day turns into dusk and nighttime.
- A lack of experience or knowledge – Some kids may not be familiar with roadway safety. Others (especially younger kids) may act spontaneously, like by running into traffic to chase a dog or ball.
Here are some helpful tips for keeping children safe when they are pedestrians or bicyclists:
- Teach children to look right, left and then right again before crossing the street – When doing this, also explain that they should never run into the street.
- Be where drivers expect to see you – This means staying on sidewalks, in crosswalks, etc. and avoiding blind spots. This can also mean making sure to make eye contact with drivers before making certain maneuvers.
- Have children use the right safety gear – For pedestrians, this would be reflective, bright clothing at night. For bicyclists, this includes a Department of Transportation-approved safety helmet.
- Lead by example – Be the driver you want your children to be. Comply with traffic laws, don’t drive aggressively, share the road with others and always buckle up.
After a Car Wreck: Essential Tips for Safeguarding Yourself & Your Children
While you can do a lot to safeguard yourself and your children on the roads, you can’t control the actions of other motorists. That’s why it’s crucial to be prepared to take the following steps after a crash:
- Call 911 – Police can divert traffic, help the injured get medical treatment, and get the debris cleaned up. They can also investigate the accident and write up an official report of their findings. This can be very important later when it’s time to deal with insurance companies.
- Seek medical attention – This is important to identifying and treating any injuries you and your children may have suffered – and to preventing the injuries from worsening.
- Collect information from the other involved parties – In addition to names and contact information, gather other driver-related information like vehicle makes and models, drivers’ license numbers and license plate numbers. Also, get insurance information, like the names of insurers and the drivers’ policy numbers.
- Take photos of the damage and crash site – Take pictures of your car, any other involved vehicles and any damaged street features (like signage, guardrails, etc.). Also, if possible, snap photos of the entire accident scene, the road conditions and the weather conditions. Your photos can document critical details that may help establish liability for the accident.
- Only discuss the facts of the crash – If you are unsure about any facts, do not discuss them. If you aren’t ready to talk about the facts and only the facts, do not make a statement. And always avoid taking the blame for the accident or admitting any wrongdoing.
- Never apologize for the accident – Compassion for others may compel you to want to say ‘sorry’ after an accident happens. Resist this urge. Your apologies can be leveraged against you, as ‘evidence’ that you were to blame for the crash.
- Follow all doctors’ orders – This includes any prescribed treatments, as well as any doctors’ restrictions, for you and your children. Complying with doctors’ order can help you and your kids heal. It can also help you avoid possible complications with a future claim.
- Contact your insurer to report the crash – Auto insurance policies can have specific, strict deadlines for filing accident reports. Some may require policyholders to make these reports within 24 to 72 hours after a crash. And failure to comply with these terms can create problems for a future claim.
- Contact an auto accident lawyer – In a free, no obligations case evaluation, an attorney can answer your questions and explain everything you need to know to protect yourself and your family as you pursue a claim for compensation. Although money can’t erase permanent damage from a crash, it can help you and your kids get treatment and start putting your lives back together. A Jersey City injury lawyer can be pivotal to helping you secure the full amount of compensation you may deserve in the aftermath of a car wreck.
Conclusion: You CAN Take Action to Safeguard Your Kids & Limit the Risk of Crashes
Clearly, you can do A LOT to protect your children in and outside of vehicles, no matter how old your kids are – and regardless of whether they may be drivers, passengers, pedestrians or bicyclists.
Of course, however, you can’t control other motorists, and there’s no way to fully prevent auto accidents from happening. So if – or when – they do, the more informed you are about what to do after a crash and your options for recovery, the better off you and your kids will be when it’s time to recover.