The 15 Biggest Safety Mistakes

Front Seats, Car Seats, and Firearms

Allowing Kids to Ride in the Front Seat

The backseat is the safest place for children because it's farthest away from the impact of a front-end collision -- the most common kind of car accident. In addition, the passenger-side air bag, while lifesaving for most adults, can deploy with such force that it's deadly to young kids. Just since last October, 137 children have been killed by air bags, including 22 babies in rear-facing car seats that were placed in the front seat.

What to do: Kids should continue riding in the backseat until at least age 12. Remind grandparents about the backseat rule.

Turning the Car Seat Around Too Soon

You may be eager to see your baby's face in the rear-view mirror, but your child must be in a rear-facing seat until he is at least 20 pounds and 1 year old, at the minimum. Some kids reach 20 pounds before 1 year of age, but that doesn't matter. "Under age 1, a child's head is disproportionately large compared to her body," says Mickalide. "If she's facing forward in a crash, her head will fall forward dramatically and do serious damage to the spinal cord and neck. If a child rides backward, the force of the crash is distributed over a larger surface of the body -- the shoulders, back, and buttocks."

What to do: Yes, it can be disconcerting to face your baby backward so you're unable to see or soothe her, but it's for her own good. Don't be tempted to purchase mirrors sold in baby stores that attach to the seat or the rear window, giving a peek at baby's reflection; they can be dangerous in a crash, as baby can smash into or be hit by them. If your child outgrows the infant seat before her first birthday, switch to a convertible seat, but also install it to face the rear of the car.

When to Switch a Car Seat
When to Switch a Car Seat

Storing Your Firearm Loaded

The unintentional firearm injury death rate among American children is nine times higher than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. About one-third of families with children have a gun in the home, and an estimated 3.3 million American children live in homes with firearms that are always or sometimes kept unlocked and loaded.

What to do: Get a trigger lock for your firearm and keep it in a locked cabinet. Lock up the ammunition in a separate place. If you must carry your weapon to and from work, load and unload it at work, not at home. All kids are curious about guns, no matter how used to seeing them they may be -- and they are very good at finding them and imitating your actions. A 3-year-old is strong enough to pull a handgun trigger.

Amy Zintl is a freelance writer in New City, New York. All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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