You’ve spent hours researching safe cars and car seats, and finally selected the right choices for your family. You’ve even had your car seat inspected at an inspection station to make sure you installed it correctly. But did you know there are other dangers in and around your vehicle that could seriously harm or even kill your child?
Find out how to keep your child safe in and around your vehicle. We offer prevention tips and information about vehicle features to avoid rollaway, backover, heatstroke, and other dangers to children.
Heatstroke is one of the leading causes of non-crash vehicle-related fatalities among children. Vehicle heatstroke occurs when a child is left in a hot vehicle, allowing for the child’s temperature to rise in a quick and deadly manner. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees and the thermoregulatory system is overwhelmed. A core body temperature of about 107 degrees is lethal. Unfortunately, even great parents can forget a child in the back seat. Other risk factors include caregivers who aren’t used to driving kids, or whose routine suddenly changes.
Whether you’re a parent, caregiver, or bystander of a child left in a car, it’s vitally important to understand children are more vulnerable to heatstroke than adults.
Many children are killed or seriously injured in backover incidents. A backover incident typically occurs when a vehicle coming out of a driveway or parking space backs over an unattended child because the driver did not see him or her.
Children can hurt themselves with power windows. Many kids are injured when a window closes on their finger, wrist, or hand. Some kids have been strangled by power windows.
A child within reach of a seat belt may become entangled if he or she pulls the seat belt all the way out and wraps the belt around his or her head, neck, or waist.
The majority of seat belts have a locking mechanism that is activated when the seat belt is pulled all the way out from the retractor. This feature is designed for car seat installation. In instances when the locking feature activates, the child may not be able to free him or herself.
This can happen if you do not properly restrain your child, for example, if you let the child lie down or sleep on the vehicle seat instead of being properly restrained. Older children who are no longer in a car seat can become entangled by pulling a seat belt all the way out of the retractor or by playing with an unused seat belt.
How to Use a Seat Belt
Children are naturally curious and love to explore their surroundings. If you leave your kids unattended, in or near a vehicle, it may not be long before they are playing in it. Hide and seek can turn deadly if they get trapped in the trunk, where temperatures can rise very quickly—resulting in heatstroke or asphyxiation.
As of September 1, 2001, automobile manufacturers are required to equip all new vehicle trunks with a ‘glow in the dark’ trunk release inside the trunk compartment. Show your kids how to use the release in case of an emergency. If your car is older and does not have the ‘glow in the dark’ trunk release, ask your automobile dealership about getting your vehicle retrofitted with a trunk release mechanism.
Brake Transmission Safety Interlock (BTSI) is a system that requires the service brake to be depressed before the transmission can be shifted out of “park.” Before the introduction of BTSI, it was possible to shift vehicles with automatic transmissions “out of park.” Unfortunately, this safety risk could occur even if the vehicle’s engine was off or in accessory mode, the driver’s foot was not on the brake, and the key was in the ignition. This often led to vehicle rollaway, particularly with unsupervised children playing in vehicles.
BTSI was gradually added to new cars until it was finally required in all vehicles by Model Year 2010. As a result, this type of vehicle rollaway, while possible, is increasingly uncommon. However, vehicle rollaway can still be a problem in vehicles equipped with a keyless ignition or push-button start feature when the vehicle has been turned off and not shifted into park. This is why it is essential to always engage your emergency brake every time you park, regardless of the presence (or lack of) BTSI technology.
Keeping children safe extends beyond car seats. NHTSA works to prevent the injury and death of children in and around vehicles by providing educational information to parents and caregivers, and through our different prevention campaigns.
But we need your help: First, it is imperative to never leave children alone in or around a vehicle, for any reason. It can only take a minute for one of these vehicle risks to seriously injure or kill your child. Second, we need to work together to teach children the dangers of playing in and around cars. Teaching vehicle safety will go many miles in the efforts to keep kids safe.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
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Washington, D.C. 20590
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