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Car Safety - Car Safety Features

Child Safety Basics


Updated March 26, 2011

A rear view camera is a great safety device for your car can help to prevent back over incidents.

A rear view camera is a great safety device for your car, especially if you have kids, and can help to reduce the risk of back over incidents.

Photo © Vincent Iannelli, MD

Since parents spend so much time on the go, car safety is just as important as home safety if you want to keep your kids safe and healthy.

It surprises some parents that car safety extends beyond simply using a safe car seat though.

Buying a Safe Car

When parents buy a new car, they are usually thinking about affordability and other factors, and not child safety. You may want to make sure it has all of the latest car safety features though, including:

  • override window controls, or a window lock, so that the driver can control whether or not the car's windows can be opened and closed by other passengers

  • adjustable rear shoulder seat belts, which can help make sure the seat belts fit older children correctly once they outgrow a booster seat

  • a rear center lap and shoulder seat belt (some cars simply have a lap belt in the rear center position), which is essential for installing a booster seat

  • safer power window switches, which would ideally have an anti-entrapment safety feature that automatically reverses a closing window if it hits something, but should at least include 'push (window down) - pull (window up)' type switches, instead of rocker switches that are easier to accidentally activate

  • electronic stability control, which can prevent sliding and skidding and might also be called ESC, StabiliTrak, AdvanceTrac, or Vehicle Skid Control, depending on the car manufacturer.

  • a trunk release mechanism to allow kids to escape if they get inside the trunk and prevent trunk entrapment

  • antilock brakes (ABS), which can keep your brakes from locking up and help you stop in difficult situations, like on wet and slippery roads

  • child safety locks to prevent kids from opening the doors on their own from inside the car

  • rear view cameras and screens or a backup sensor system can help alert you to a child or other object behind your car

You also want to make sure that all of your kids, and their car seats and booster seats, actually fit in the car or SUV you are buying. If you have four young children, that will likely mean buying something with a third row of seats so that you don't have to put one of your kids in the front seat.

Car Seats

Like your baby's crib and a home smoke detector, a car seat is one of those baby products that is essential to have if you have a car.

Understanding which types of car seats are available can make it much easier to choose which car seat is best for your child.

Available car seats include:

  • Infant Car Seats - can be used in the rear-facing position only, but has the added benefit of being able to be used as an infant carrier too, which can often be attached to a stroller (travel system).
  • Convertible Car Seats - can be used in the rear-facing position to 30 or 35 pounds and then converts to a forward-facing car seat and sometimes even a booster seat depending on which one you buy
  • Forward-Facing Toddler Car Seats - can be used only as a forward-facing car seat with a harness strap until a child is 40 to 80 pounds. Many parents buy convertible car seats, but end up only using them in the forward-facing position.
  • Combination Car Seats - can be used as a forward-facing car seat with a harness strap until a child is 40 to 65 pounds and then as a booster seat
  • Booster Car Seats - are used with a car's lap and shoulder belt and include high-back and no back booster seats and can usually be used until a child is 80 to 100 pounds and is 57 inches tall - around the time when he is 8 to 12 years old and ready for regular seat belts.

Most importantly, follow your state car seat laws, but where they are lacking (some states say it is okay to take kids out of a car seat at age 4 or 5, for example), follow the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and keep your kids in a booster seat until they are 4' 9" tall.

Hot Cars

Your family car is one of these 'hidden dangers,' and it is not just because of car accidents. In addition to the risk of getting hit or run over by a car, being left or getting trapped in a hot car can be just as deadly a danger. In fact, over 230 children have died after being left in a hot car (sometimes on relatively mild days with only 70 degree temperatures) since 1998.

Situations in which kids get hurt in hot cars include when:

  • infants and toddlers are simply forgotten in their car seat
  • toddlers or preschoolers sneak into the car to play and can't get out
  • kids get trapped in the trunk

What's the danger? In addition to the risk of being abducted if they are left alone in a car, on a typical summer day, the temperature inside a car (even with the windows rolled down a little) can quickly rise above 120 to 140 degrees. At those temperatures, kids are at great risk for heat stroke, which can lead to dehydration, seizures, stroke and death.

To keep your kids safe:

  • don't leave them in a car, which can quickly heat up, especially on a hot, sunny day
  • always lock your car and secure the keys so that your kids can't get to them
  • warn your kids about playing in the car by themselves without adult supervision
  • install a trunk release mechanism, so that they can't get trapped in the trunk
  • get your kids out of the car first, and then worry about getting the groceries, etc., out of the car when you get home
  • make sure that child car providers and day care workers have a plan to make sure that kids aren't left in the day care providers car or van

Roll Over Injuries

In addition to trying to buy a car with a rear view cameras and screens or a backup sensor system, it can help to prevent roll over or back over accidents if you don't allow kids to play around your car when you are getting ready to back out of the driveway.


American Academy of Pediatrics. Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families 2011.

Related Video
How to Install a Booster Seat

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