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Keeping Children Safe in the Car

When it comes to vehicle safety, everyone has the right to be safe, and this especially applies to children. However, it's imperative to keep in mind that the responsibility of a child's safety falls into the hands of their parents, guardians or caregivers. And try as they may, sometimes, adults don't keep their little ones as safe as possible because they are not aware of standard vehicle safety practices. We understand the importance of child safety in cars at Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin, P.A. That's why we created this page for parents to keep your kids safe.

Here's a quick guide to walk you through the process of keeping your children safe in the car: including car seat guidelines, air bag safety, and what to do if you were to be in an accident.

Until a child has reached his or her second birthday, it is imperative that they ride in a rear facing infant car seat until they reach the weight or height limit of the seat; this helps minimize the risk of enduring a cervical spine injury during an auto accident. If a child has yet to turn two years old, a rear facing seat is still necessary, however, the seat should be approved for higher weights.

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    After the child reaches two years of age, most rear facing car seats approved for higher weight and height limits can then be turned around to face forward. Such car seats are meant to be used until the child reaches up to 90 lbs. For some children, this may mean they will ride in a child car seat until they are six years old, or possibly even older. It's imperative to make sure that the child's shoulders sit below the seat strap slots and that the tops of his or her ears are below the top of the seat back.

    Until the child weighs 40 pounds, it's best to use a full harness car seat. After 40 pounds, a booster seat of some sort, preferably one with a belt-positioning feature, will be needed until the child can fit comfortably and safely into the actual seat of the car. For most children, this means they will need to use the booster seat until they are at least 80 pounds, and most won't be able to use adult seat belts until they are at least 4'9″ tall.

    What it means to sit correctly in the seat of a car without a child car seat of any type:

    • Sitting without slouching
    • Knees should be bent at or near the edge of the seat
    • Feet should dangle toward the floorboard, or rest on the floorboard
    • The seat belt should come over the shoulder of the child and across the chest

    Installing child car seats the right way is imperative to their overall effectiveness. Before you install one, make sure to read through the entirety of the manual. And when you install it, kneel in the car seat yourself, putting all of your weight into it as you tighten the straps; this helps to ensure the car seat is as tight as it possibly can be. If it sways from one side to the other, or back and forth, then you have not installed it correctly and you'll need to start the installation process over.

    Air bag safety tips

    Until a child reaches his or her 13th birthday, weighs at least 80 lbs, and is over 4'9″ tall, he or she will need to ride in the back seat of a car. Once the child reaches this point, though, it's then possible for him or her to ride in the front passenger seat.

    As far as trucks that have no back seat, it's pertinent to never place a young child in a car seat in a seat that has an air bag. You will need to turn off the air bag in order for the child to safely ride in the front seat of a truck.

    Children and adults riding in the front passenger seat - with or without an air bag - should always wear a safety belt. The seat should be as far away from the dash as possible, and most importantly, the person should sit up straight in the seat and not mess with any controls on the dashboard, such as the radio; this helps to improve safety.

    Knowing what to do if you get in an accident

    In addition to making sure your little ones are buckled in safely, it's imperative to be prepared for an accident. One of the best ways to do this is by taking part in the WHALE program - We Have a Little Emergency. This identification program provides you with an information card for you to fill out as well as a plastic holder.

    It's ideal to fill out the card completely - child's name, allergies, any special needs, etc. - and then use the self-adhesive holder to secure it to the back of the child's car seat. You will also receive an information card identifier for you to place in the window of your car that informs emergency responders where to look for the information card. The information provided on this card is vital to the both your child and emergency responders in the event that a car accident were to take place where you become incapacitated, or unable to communicate due to injury.

    Being prepared for an accident also involves knowing that you should not move an injured child from the vehicle, unless the car is on fire or there is a threat of it catching on fire. If you move the injured child in the wrong manner, this could worsen his or her injuries. If at all possible, always wait for emergency personnel to remove the child for you.

    Contact a reliable resource for more information

    If you would like more information on car seat safety to keep children safe in the car, and how to best protect your child's rights after he or she has been injured in an accident, please don't hesitate to contact Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin, P.A. today. Serving the Seacoast since 1870, our law firm is your go-to advocate for child safety.

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    Portsmouth, NH 03801

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