This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Summer road trips are a time-honored tradition. Cherished childhood memories often go hand in hand with vacations to exciting destinations like amusement parks or the beach, or trips to visit family. Often, the journey is about the destination on these trips, but it’s important not to overlook the trip itself. Keeping kids safe in the car — on summer vacation or any time — is a responsibility all parents should take seriously.
Buckle up. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children aged 1-13. Ensuring your child is properly secured in his or her car seat can make a big difference if you’re involved in an automobile crash. Choose a car seat that’s appropriate for your child’s age and weight. Children under the age of one should always be in a rear-facing seat. Children should remain in a rear-facing seat until they reach the top height or weight limits stated by the manufacturer. Toddlers and young children should travel in a forward-facing seat with a harness until they outgrow the height and weight requirements stated by the manufacturer. Until kids meet the requirements for using a regular seat belt, they should have a booster seat. Child safety seats should always be installed in the back seat of a vehicle.
Children are generally ready to use a seat belt when they are tall enough to sit in the seat without slouching; they can keep their back against the vehicle seat; they can keep their knees naturally bent over the edge of the vehicle seat; and they can keep their feet flat on the vehicle floor. To fit a seat belt properly, the lap belt must lie across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should be across the shoulder and chest, not the neck or face. Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12. No matter what child safety seat you’re using, it’s important the safety seat be properly installed. If you’re unsure if your child’s car seat is installed properly, contact Carson City Health and Human Services’ WIC office to have it inspected.
Never leave kids unattended in cars. Cars aren’t a safe place to leave children, even for a minute. The temperature inside a car can climb quickly, even if it doesn’t seem hot outside. This puts occupants of the vehicle at risk for heat stroke and even death. Each year, children are forgotten in cars by distracted parents and, tragically, die. Always check before leaving you vehicle to make sure no one is left inside.
Always be an alert driver. For the safety of the children and other passengers in your car, as well as occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists on the road, keep your full focus on driving. It’s tempting to try to multitask on the road, but if something else warrants your attention while you’re driving, please pull over to take care of it. Remove all distractions, including handheld devices and cell phones.
Make sure your kids are safe on the road, during summer road trips and always. To learn more about keeping kids safe, and for tips on using a car seat properly, visit www.safercar.gov. To learn more about other Health Department services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or visit us at www.facebook.com/cchhs.