As parents, we perform due diligence when shopping for a car that will keep our kids safe when we’re on the road. We choose only car seats that meet (or exceed) safety standards. We follow the speed limit and drive defensively. But what about those often-overlooked auto-related hazards?
Below is an outline of four potential dangers associated with the family car and how you can mitigate the risk to your family.
- Trunk Entrapment – A car’s trunk can make an enticing hiding spot for a curious child. A child who crawls inside a trunk is in danger of becoming trapped, where temperatures can rise quickly. A trapped child is at risk for suffering suffocation and/or heatstroke.
How to Prevent Injury: Vehicles manufactured after September 2001 come equipped with a glow-in-the-dark emergency release (older vehicles may be retrofitted to include this feature). Teach your child to stay away from and out of the trunk and how to use the lever in case of emergency. Always lock car doors and the trunk when you are not around the automobile and keep car keys out of reach of small hands.
- Heatstroke – The interior temperature of a car can increase at a rate much faster than the external temperature, particularly in a sunny climate like South Florida. A child left unattended in a car can succumb quickly to the potentially lethal effects of heatstroke.
How to Prevent Injury: Never leave a child alone in a car – even for a few minutes and even if the windows are left partially down. On days when your routine changes – such as a different parent than usual picks up the child from daycare or school – be particularly vigilant about double-checking for your child when you exit the car. Better yet: Leave your purse or briefcase in the backseat so you have a reminder to look back there.
- Backover Accidents – Backover accidents typically occur when a driver backs out of a parking spot, garage or driveway and doesn’t see a child behind the vehicle. These accidents can result in serious or fatal injuries for young victims.
How to Prevent Injury: Teach your kids about the dangers of playing near or behind parked vehicles and why they need to move away from a car that has started. Before you get into your car, walk around the vehicle to ensure there are no children in the area. Continue checking mirrors as you back up – children can move quickly into the line of danger.
- Rollaway Accidents – An unattended child inadvertently may shift a parked car out of “Park,” causing it to roll away into traffic or other dangers. This can happen even when the vehicle is off, provided the keys are left in the ignition.
How to Prevent Injury: Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle – even for “quick stops,” like running inside the bank or grocery store. Keep your car locked when unattended and teach your children that the car is not an acceptable play area. For extra peace of mind, always engage the emergency brake when parking your vehicle.