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Are you practicing good child car safety?

February 18, 2009

Your most precious cargo requires extra safety steps. When driving with infants or young children in your vehicle, you’ll want to make sure you administer the following safety practices that many parents don’t always consider:

Car seats, naturally: In Ontario, car seats are the law for all children up to the age of eight. Infants face the rear until they are 9 kilograms (kg), toddlers face forward from 9 kg to 18 kg and children use booster seats until they are 36 kg or stand 145 centimetres (cm) tall or turn 8 years old. A properly installed child safety seat can reduce the risk of serious injury or death to your child by up to 75 per cent, so be sure you get this down pat. If you fail to secure your children properly, you will be charged. In Ontario, the fine is $110 and you’ll have two demerit points added to your driving record, which could impact your insurance rates.

Talking car safety with your kids: This may seem simple enough, but it’s a step many parents don’t take with their young children. It doesn’t have to be a scare tactic - simply sit your young children down and let them know that driving is serious and has to be a safe experience every time. Explain that parents need to focus on the task at hand and kids need to stay behaved and calm in the back seat. Offer incentives and rewards for good car behaviour and make learning about safety fun.

Prevent kid boredom and driver anger: Many times, parents forget that a longer drive is easy on adults, but torture for smaller children who have short attention spans. Stock your back seat with safe, fun items such as plush toys, or even consider investing in a car DVD player and screen. Come up with fun games and songs to keep kids engaged in activity. Deterring boredom (which can turn into a major distraction) will help you focus on your drive and keep you from constantly turning around to discipline your brood.

Take a break: Even though you want to make good time during longer trips, don’t assume your kids will be able to handle it without breaks. For children under the age of 10, it’s a good idea to allow for a break every hour while on the road. Even if it means pulling over at a designated, pre-planned stop to get your kids out and playing and stretching for a few minutes, know that your little ones will be less stressed, cranky and upset - and your drive will be safer for it.

Back seat versus front seat: Adults sit in the front seat, young kids sit in the back seat - period. Even if they beg, you should assert that the front part of the cabin is for moms and dads only. Front car seats are designed for adult bodies; not child bodies, so keep the divide. For example, if an air bag deploys in the front seat in the case of an accident, it can cause serious injury to your children. Also make sure this applies to you - don’t lean back while driving to adjust the kids or discipline them. You should have them properly set up before setting off, making sure they are buckled up and in their safety or booster seats.