Kids in Cars

You do all you can to protect your children from illness, but did you know that the No. 1 cause of death in children under 14 is not disease? It's motor vehicle accidents. In 2021 alone, 4,048 children under the age of 19 died as motor vehicle occupants. Meanwhile, in 2021, there were more than 160,000 children under the age of 14 injured in traffic crashes. An average of 3 children killed and an estimated 445 children injured every day in 2021. One of the best ways to help children is to make sure that they are properly restrained whenever they ride in a car or truck.

Children require their own “special” restraint system such as a car seat. However, car seats and booster seats are often used incorrectly, which can make them less effective in the event of a crash. The Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh recommends the following guidelines for keeping your children safe while in the car:

Safety Tips

  • All passengers in the vehicle should be properly restrained.
  • Children should be in safety restraints appropriate for their size and age. (See Car Seat Safety Chart.)
  • All children under the age of 13 should sit in the back seat – especially in a vehicle with a passenger side airbag.
  • Infants who are under the age of two must be rear facing. Best practice is to keep your child rear facing for as long as the height and weight allows on your car seat. Rear facing is the safest.
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the car seat and your car.
  • Make sure the car seat is secured properly in the seat. It should not move more than one inch in any direction. To secure it tightly, kneel inside it while you strap it into the car.
  • Make sure the car seat’s harness straps are in the correct slots. They should be tight enough that an adult can fit only one finger under the strap at the collarbone.
  • Use the car seat’s harness clip, and use it correctly. The top of the clip should be level with the child’s armpits.
  • Have your car safety seat checked at one of these checkpoints.
  • Don’t use a car seat after it’s been in an accident. Buy a new one.
  • Never permit passengers to ride in the back of a pickup truck – it’s illegal.
  • When buying a car, truck or van, make sure that it has lap-shoulder belts and head rests in the back seat.
  • Watch for recalls on car seats. Before you buy one, write down the exact name and model number and contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), 1-800-CARBELT, to make sure that it hasn’t been recalled. After you buy the car seat, complete and mail the warranty card so the manufacturer will be able to contact you if there is a recall. If you are using a used car seat, contact NHTSA to make sure it hasn’t been recalled.
  • When buying a vehicle, make sure that it has lap-shoulder belts and head rests in the back seat.