Last month, I blogged about keeping your kids safe IN the car but the reality is that not all accidents happen while your child is in the car.
In the case mentioned in that last blog, a 5 year old was killed by being pinned to her parents car by a driverless vehicle at her school’s pick up area. Police were calling it a ‘freak accident’ and that’s just about right. I don’t think any amount of teaching about vehicle safety would have prevented this tragedy.
But the whole incident led me to think about child safety AROUND vehicles, not just in them. No child will be 100% safe when we’re dealing with 4,000 pound cars vs. 60 pound kids, but we can do more, and we should.
Teach Your Children Pedestrian Attention
We’ve all seen the video online of the girl staring at her phone so hard that she falls right into a fountain. But revisit that scenario with the girl falling in front of a speeding bus. Not so funny, right?
Teaching children about pedestrian attention is reaching critical importance. Kids, like many adults, are walking through their neighbourhoods, plugged into their tech, not paying attention to what’s going on around them. I even wrote an entire blog about safety around Pokemon Go back in 2016. It’s a recipe for more tragic events, in my opinion.
Not only do they need to look both ways when crossing the street, they need to look both ways when crossing at lights, crosswalks or anywhere else where there are cars, bikes or trains, including parking lots.
Train your kids to make eye contact with drivers, where possible, to ensure that they’ve been seen.
A typical scenario: A car that is turning right has the driver looking at the traffic coming towards them but hasn’t looked right to see if someone is stepping off the curb.
Driving schools teach drivers to do right-handed blind spot checks for bikes and pedestrians, but that doesn’t mean drivers bother.
That’s why it’s up to parents to teach their kids to make sure that the driver sees them before they move forward, even if it means missing the light.
When caught crossing inappropriately, kids will say: “But it was my turn!” or the “light was green!” My answer? Fault isn’t the point when it’s you versus a car or truck. Children must learn to be vigilant when walking and crossing, even when they’re doing it correctly.
Ages And Stages Of Car Safety
Many parents lament the day when their kids learned to remove their seat belt. The day your child can open the door and dash out of the car is a hard one for all parents. Car safety generally should begin before that happens… here are a few tips for car safety at every stage of development:
Babies Alone In Cars
Aside from securing their car seats, as I wrote about in Part 1, another big issue is reminding parents not to leave their kids in the car. There’s a couple of reasons for this:
- A child left alone in the car, even for a few minutes, is at risk of overheating in the summer months. A car can climb 15-20 degrees in a matter of minutes and babies will overheat five times faster than an adult will. Cracking a window isn’t a solution.
- A child out of sightline from the parents, if you want to dash into the store while baby is sleeping for example, is a high-risk activity. You know that moving them will wake them up, so you think to yourself: ‘just this once’. It’s just not safe. If the car is hit or stolen, those extra moments of sleep will not have been worth it.
- If you’re stressed out or tired, do something to ensure that you don’t forget that your baby is back there! Put something on the front seat that will remind you! It sounds unreal but it happens more often than we’d like to think and kids have died as a result.
Older Children Alone In Cars
This presents similar problems to leaving babies alone, with a few additional isses thanks to the fact that older kids can move around:
- A child who is big enough to unbuckle themselves is big enough to get out of the car, open the window, and possibly even put the car in gear as they climb around their newfound jungle gym. Not only are they at risk, but so are others around them.
- If your rear doors have them, be sure to engage the child protective locks to prevent kids from opening the doors from the inside. I’ve heard of kids managing to open a door while the car was in motion! That’s not something you want to have happen on a busy roadway.
- Block the windows from being opened. Power windows exert a force of up to 80 pounds. A child can be seriously hurt at 20 pounds of pressure. You do the math…
Pre-Teens and Teens
- The risk with older kids is that they might attempt to drive the car on their own. As a dare, or to show off, or just because they think they’re invincible! Make sure know where your car keys are.
- There will be times when your teen demands you let them out of the car (haven’t we all been there?) And it’s tempting…so tempting… but there are times when we must remind ourselves to be the parents and not allow our older children to endanger themselves.
Entering A Car With Kids
Tell me if you’ve ever done this: you’ve packed up the car, loaded everyone in and started driving, when you suddenly realize that baby is in the car seat but not buckled in.
Most parents have done this, or something like it, at one point or another, and it’s usually the result of rushing. Packing kids into the car, with all their stuff, isn’t a quick process. Allow yourself the time you need to do it safely. Factor for it in your plans.
Another point is to be wary of leaving the kids in the car while it warms up in the winter. If the tailpipe is blocked by snow and the windows are rolled up, you can end up with carbon monoxide filling the vehicle quickly.
Exiting A Car With Kids
This can be a taxing exercise, particularly if you have more than one child. You get the older one out, but then as you try and get the baby out and into their stroller, the older one is running around the car.
Whether in a parking lot or on the side of a street, this is a dangerous proposition.
- Have the older child put their hand on either the stroller handle, or on the car door handle nearest to where you are trying to get the baby out. Start when they are young and do it every time. They will quickly get into the habit. This way, you know where they are at all times, while you get the baby sorted out.
- Always try and park so that the baby seat (if you have only one) is curbside, to make it easier to extract baby, while keeping an eye on older kids.
Backovers And Frontovers Are Real Risks
As a driver, you should always ensure that there is nothing around your car before you get in and pull forward or back out.
No bike, no toys, no pets and no kids. Check to make sure that everyone is accounted for and is either in the car or in the house before pulling out.
We become very complacent, relying on rear view cams and alarms instead of our own eyes, but being aware of what’s around your vehicle is something you should do as a matter of routine. Better safe than sorry, right?
None of this information is intended to frighten you. It’s intended to make you aware of the possible dangers and, hopefully, avoid them. Your best teaching method is to model good car behaviour to your kids, so go for it: they’ll learn more than you realize just being with you.