Kids & Cars: What Every Parent Should Know

Surprisingly, children between the ages of 3 and 14, suffer the most accidental injury-related deaths from riding in motor vehicles. Children are more likely to be injured, suffer more severe injuries, or die in motor vehicle crashes when car safety is not made a priority.

Every year too many children are injured or killed due to high-risk situations that could be avoided entirely. Parents may be unaware of the dangers associated with certain motor vehicle situations. 

This leads to even the basics of motor vehicle safety being overlooked. So, in an effort to help prevent these dangerous situations, Howard Ellis, MD, a pediatrician with Mason Pediatrics, a Gwinnett Medical Group practice, offers some of the most important safety precautions every parent should know.

Using Safety Restraints is a Must

Physically, children are smaller than average adults. Their smaller size means that the standard safety belts in motor vehicles do not properly fit to protect children's bodies.

One age group, from 4 to 8 years of age, is especially at risk for improperly using safety belts in motor vehicles. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children do not fit in adult shoulder and lap belts (without a booster seat) until they are 57 inches tall, and between the ages of 8 and 12.

However, children between the ages of 4 to 8 years who have outgrown their child safety seat often are placed too soon in adult shoulder and lap belts without a booster seat. A booster seat is necessary if the shoulder strap of the seat belt crosses your child's neck rather than his/her chest and the lap belt crosses his/her stomach rather than his/her hips or upper thighs.

Make Sure Safety Seats are Properly Installed

Many people think they have installed their child safety seat correctly and believe they are using it properly. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proves differently. As many as 73% of child safety seats are found to be improperly installed and/or used. A child can suffer injuries or death in a motor vehicle crash if the child safety seat is not properly installed or used.

Some of the most common mistakes in installing or using child safety seats include the following:
  • Safety belt not holding the seat in tightly and/or not in locked mode
  • Harness straps not snug and/or positioned correctly
  • Harness retainer clip not at armpit level
  • Locking clip not used correctly
  • Car seat recalled and not repaired (includes booster seats)
  • Infants placed rear-facing in front of an active air bag
  • Children turned forward-facing before reaching 2 years of age and 20 pounds

Parents and caregivers should carefully read their vehicle owner's manual and the instructions that come with the child safety seat to make sure that the seat belt is properly installed and used. Some child safety seats are not compatible with certain vehicles. Try the child's safety seat in your vehicle before you purchase it. Also, place your child in the child safety seat before purchase to make sure of proper fit.

Beware of Air Bags

Air bags, when properly used with the vehicles' lap and shoulder belts system, can save adult lives. However, air bags can increase the danger to a child's safety.

When infants in rear-facing child safety seats and children who are unrestrained are placed in the front seat with an air bag, they may be too close to an inflating air bag in the event of a crash. An air bag will inflate at speeds up to 200 mph, which can hurt passengers who are too close to the air bag. In addition, because of the child's size, the air bag can strike him or her on the head or neck, resulting in serious or fatal injuries.

To make that your child is as safe as possible in a vehicle, never place him or her in front of an air bag. The safest place for small children riding in vehicles is the rear seat, away from the impact of head-on crashes. If your child must ride in the front seat, move the seat as far back as possible, away from the air bag. If the car has no back seat, infants will only be safe in their rear-facing child safety seats if the vehicle has no air bag, or if the air bag has been switched off (a choice in some vehicles).

As tempting as it may be to run a quick errand, leaving children unattended inside a vehicle—even for a minute—can be dangerous. A sealed, closed car is a veritable oven. This is due to the fact that the expanse of closed glass traps and magnifies heat.

In fact, it isn’t only hot temperatures that can cause fatal heat stroke for children. On a cool sunny day with temperatures in the 60 degree range, the temperature inside the car can reach 120 degrees in just over an hour.

Expert Care for Children


Children go through many changes as they age. Therefore, it’s especially important to find a doctor who can provide comprehensive care for every age. At Mason Pediatrics, our experienced, compassionate pediatricians are dedicated to providing expert care to ensure the health of each and every patient. 

To make care more convenient, Mason Pediatrics will begin providing care on January 2 at its brand new facility, located in Suite 920, GMC Health Park-Lawrenceville, 665 Duluth Highway. 

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