1. All car passengers should always wear a seat belt at all times. It’s a good idea to teach this to your children early, and to remind them that seatbelts should be worn even in neighborhoods and in parking lots. Of the 50 US states, 49 of them have laws requiring seatbelt use for adults (New Hampshire does not). However all 50 states do have laws requiring children to be buckled up. Rules for children’s car seat and booster seat depend on your child’s age, height, and weight, so make sure that your child is in the appropriate seat for them. Remember, children often grow a lot during the summer, so you might need to upgrade to a bigger seat!
Many local fire and police departments offer free car seat safety check events, so if you aren’t sure if your child is in the right seat, keep an eye out for these safety events in your area. It’s also important to note that, even when children have grown out of their booster seats, experts recommend that all children under 12 years old ride in the back seat.
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2. Be alert at every point in your journey, from backing out of your driveway until you have parked at home again. This is particularly important in school zones, where the speed limit is reduced during specific times of day. Young children can move unpredictably and may dart into the road with no caution or warning. Be aware of children waiting at bus stops and in car rider lines. It’s also important to keep an eye out for children walking or biking to and from school, as they may be distracted and not paying attention to their surroundings.
3. If your child is part of a carpool, make sure you set the proper expectations at the beginning of the school year. Ensure that they know what kind of behavior you expect from them while they are riding in someone else’s car. It’s also important to make sure that you and the other carpool driver are on the same page regarding carpool expectations. If you would prefer that your child only rides in the back seat, or that the other driver not use their cell phone while your child is in the car, it is a good idea to communicate this early.
4. Do not text or talk on your cell phone while driving. Not only is this type of distracted driving an extremely dangerous practice that leads to thousands of crashes, injuries, and deaths annually, it also sets a poor example for your children. Show them that no text or phone call is worth more than their safety, and model good driving behavior and etiquette for them, because one day it will be your child behind the wheel instead of you.
5. Make sure that your child’s school has the most up-to-date records regarding who is or is not allowed to pick up your child from school. Teach your child to never get in the car with a stranger or even a friend or acquaintance if they do not have special permission from a parent.
Look for part four of our Back-to-School Safety series in the upcoming weeks for more helpful tips to keep you and your children safe during the back-to-school season and throughout the school year.