While much attention is paid to ensuring safe automobile travel for infants, as children get older, safety precautions tend to become lax. Preschoolers still require various precautions and special equipment to keep them safe in the car. At the same time, they are old enough to begin taking responsibility for some of these precautions themselves. The preschool years, then, offer a great opportunity to start educating your child in automobile safety.
Safety Seats and Seat Belt Adjusters
Too big for an infant car seat, preschoolers still aren't quite big enough to travel safely with only the precaution of an adult seat belt. Most states require a car seat until your child is three years old, but after that, required safety measures become a bit more complicated. The seat belt is angled to fit a much taller person, so it won't align properly on a four- or five-year-old. In fact, an adult seat belt on a preschooler can cause injury during an accident rather than keep him safe.
A booster seat is one way to bridge the gap between infant seat and full-size seat belts. Many states have passed additional child safety laws requiring children up to sixty pounds, or up to six years old, to use a booster seat while traveling in a car. The seat belt fits over the booster seat, while the seat itself elevates the child to the proper height so that the shoulder belt fits across his body properly.
Seat belt adjusters can help properly align adult-sized seat belts, as well. The seat belt is threaded through the adjuster and draws the shoulder strap down into proper position for your smaller passenger. If your state requires use of a booster seat, this alternative will not act as a substitute, but it can be helpful for kids older than age six if they tend to be on the smaller side.
Precautions With Airbags
There has been an increased automobile safety through the addition of airbags to nearly all cars. However, this also means that the days of having your child in the front passenger seat with you are past. If your car has a passenger side airbag, no one under the age of twelve should sit in the front passenger seat if the airbag is activated.
Because of issues with fatalities from passenger side airbags, some cars come equipped with a switch to deactivate the airbag, or even a detector in the seat that prevents the airbag from being activated if the passenger is under a certain weight. If you must place a preschooler in the passenger seat, though, be absolutely certain the airbag is deactivated.
Getting Your Child in on the Safety Regimen
One of the best ways to be sure your preschooler is practicing all the necessary safety precautions is to give the child some responsibility regarding his seat belt and booster seat. If a child knows the car shouldn't be moving (if he's not buckled in), chances are he'll let you know if you forget to check his seatbelt. Make a game out of it to make the procedure that much more memorable, and you'll be assured of impressing good safety habits on your child right from the beginning.