Back to School and Car Seat Safety

As summer comes to a close, schools are opening back up again, which can be exciting time for students, parents, and educators. It is important to remember how to keep your child safe while riding to and from school in a vehicle, waiting in the carpool lane, or riding a bus. A new school year is a great time to review the child passenger safety tips that can help keep your family safe all year long. 

The number one way you can keep your child safe in a vehicle is by using the appropriate child restraint seat. Depending on the height and weight of the child, a rear-facing seat, forward-facing seat, or a booster seat may be appropriate for your child. Always check the labels on the car seat to ensure the child still is in a correct seat. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has provided suggestions on best practice when choosing the correct seat for your child but again always check the labels because each seat has different height and weight requirements. The start of the school year is a great time to double check that your child has not outgrown the current seat you are using.

dad helping daughter with car seat

It is important to remind your child of the appropriate way to use a car seat every time your child rides in a vehicle even if the driver changes or duration of the trip is short. School is often close to home and it can be tempting to not secure the child in the seat because the ride is so short. It is equally tempting for the child themselves to not want to be a car seat since the ride is so short. But it is critical that every time you are in the vehicle you properly restraint your child in the correct car seat. 

Below are some tips to review with your child before every ride: 

  • Seat belts must be worn during every car ride. If the child meets the requirements to be in a seat belt, the seat belt should be fastened before the vehicle is even turned on and left on until the end of the trip. 
    • When waiting in a carpool line, it is important the child remains in the seat belt or car seat even if the car is not moving. A child should never be allowed to move around the vehicle, or seat in the front seat even when the car is stopped. 
  • Every passenger should have their own seat and seat belt. If there is not enough room in the vehicle, the child should wait until another vehicle is available instead of putting more passengers in the vehicle than intended. 
  • Children under the age of 13 should always be in the back seat of the vehicle because this decreases the risk of injury and protects them from the airbags if the vehicle was in a wreck. 
    • Even when the vehicle has stopped or waiting in a carpool line, the child should remain buckled in the back seat of the vehicle. This helps protect child if the vehicle was in a wreck or hit from behind even at a slow speed. 
  • A child should not unbuckle the seat belt or the child restraint until the driver tells the child and the vehicle has stopped and is turned off completely. When going through the carpool lane, child may unbuckle as soon as they arrive on school property to make sure they can exit the car quickly. Although this may seem like a good idea, it can actually be very dangerous for the child. 
  • Remove the backpack and coats before placing the child in the car seat. This allows for the seat belt or straps to be correctly positioned against the child’s chest. 
  • Never allow a teacher or other adult to buckle the child into the car seat. As the caregiver, you know how to correctly place the child in the seat. If another adult buckles the child, it may be done incorrectly, and the child may not be properly restrained. 
  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle even for just a short time like to drop off another sibling in the school building. 
  • When carpooling with another family, always ensure there is enough space and seats in the car for your child. Show the driver how to properly install the seat and buckle the child in correctly. It may be helpful to have the driver practice before the ride so you can answer any questions and correct any misuses during installation.