Car Safety Tips Everyone Should Know

Written by Carly Hallman

More than 30,000 people died in vehicular accidents in the United States in 2012, according to data recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. With the prevalence of car accidents and the assorted dangers on the highways, car safety is something that everyone should understand and practice. Restraining vehicle occupants with seat belts and car seats is one important facet of car safety. Educating drivers, including teenage drivers, about driving defensively is also important for overall safety. Anyone who travels with pets in the car also needs to understand how to keep them safe.

Child Safety in Cars

Children under age 12 should always ride in the back seat because airbags installed in the passenger seat can cause severe injuries or even death for children. When children are passengers in cars, they require special restraint systems to keep them safe. The type of system required depends on the age and size of the child. Car seats include rear-facing infant car seats, forward-facing car seats, convertible car seats that can be installed both rear-facing and forward-facing, and booster car seats for older children. A prevalent problem with car seats involves incorrect use. Every car seat and every car has specific installation requirements. Consequently, it’s necessary to follow both car seat and vehicle instructions to ensure proper installation of a car seat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain rear-facing in vehicles until their second birthday. The AAP also advises that children should ride in booster seats until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall, which typically occurs some time between ages 8 and 12. Ensure that the car seat or booster seat is tightly secured in the vehicle. It should not move more than an inch in any direction. The straps surrounding a child should also be snug enough so that it’s not possible to pinch more than an inch of excess strap.

Seat Belt Safety

Seat belt use in a moving vehicle is the most effective way to avoid serious injury from an accident. Without seat belt restraints, even an accident at a relatively low speed can result in serious injuries from being thrown around inside a vehicle or colliding with other passengers. Although air bags can help reduce injuries in car accidents, they work more effectively when vehicle occupants also wear seat belts. All states have laws in place regarding seat belt use, either primary or secondary laws. A primary law means that the police can stop and ticket a driver for seat belt use infractions without any other offenses having occurred. A secondary law means that police can issue tickets for seat belt use infractions only if another traffic offense occurs also.

Improve the Safety of Teen Drivers

With their inexperience behind the wheel, teenage drivers can pose a significant safety risk on the highways. Car crashes are the most common cause of death among teenagers in the United States. Teenagers can become safer drivers by driving defensively, which includes following speed limits, driving with lights on, staying attuned to surrounding traffic, increasing following distance, and eliminating distractions while driving. Many states have laws in place for teenage drivers that govern the use of cell phones while driving and the number of passengers that teen drivers can have in a vehicle.

Traveling with Animals

Traveling with pets can be dangerous if the animals are not contained inside the vehicle. Never allow pets to roam freely inside the car. Instead, place the animal in a crate or carrier and restrain the carrier with a seat belt. If a dog is too large for a carrier inside a vehicle, place it in the back seat. Animals should never ride in the front seat, and don’t allow a pet to ride with its head out of a window because this could lead to injuries from flying debris.