More Driving Mistakes
5. WE'RE CONFUSED ABOUT CHILD-SAFETY SEATS.
Fifty-eight percent of you find installing them difficult, and you're not getting help. Six in 10 moms haven't had their baby's child-safety seat checked by a child-passenger safety technician, our poll found. If used properly, a child-safety seat can reduce fatalities among infants by 71 percent, according to the NHTSA, yet stats show that three out of every four of these seats are not used correctly. "I've been in this field for 26 years, and I can tell you that parents are making the same mistakes today they were making years ago, even though the products are better," says Lorrie Walker, training manager for Safe Kids Worldwide. "It's amazing to me, because riding in the car is the single greatest health risk your child will face until adulthood."
Have your child-safety seat checked out by a pro. Find an inspection site in your area that offers free installations. (Go to SeatCheck.org.) Then get familiar with the seat's manual. "Parents never read the directions--they think, How hard can it be?" Walker says. "But you never want to someday say, 'I wish I had.' "The seat should be snug enough in the car that you can't wiggle it back and forth more than an inch. And be sure to follow the new recommendation to leave your tot riding rear-facing until at least age 2. Tests show it's much safer. Once your child is buckled in, tighten the straps until there is no excess strap for you to pinch at the shoulders.
6. WE LEAVE OUR BABIES ALONE IN THE CAR.
Eight percent of us admit to leaving our toddlers unattended in the car to run a quick errand, yet the only acceptable number is zero. "Even a few minutes in the car can be dangerous," Carr says. Children's bodies don't regulate temperature as well as adults'. In the car, a child's body temperature can plummet fast on frigid days or quickly rise to unsafe, possibly deadly, levels on mild days.
It's also easy (as my parking-lot scare proves) to leave an infant in the car by accident. "I've seen it happen time and again," Carr says. "These aren't careless parents. They're solid, loving parents who just forget." For first-time moms, remembering to get your newborn from the backseat may not be a habit yet. Forgetfulness can also strike, Carr says, on an off-routine day. Maybe you're supposed to do the day-care drop-off instead of your partner handling it one morning--but you forget and drive straight to work, leaving your little one in the car.
Never leave your baby alone in the car. To avoid a calamity, put something on the backseat, like your cellphone, that you'll need when you arrive. Trust me, it works! Ever since that terrifying June day, I've made it a habit to toss my bag next to Campbell every single time we get in the car. Today she's a never-again-forgotten 6-year-old who loves to bicker with her brother on long trips. Now, if only I could get those two to pipe down. Kiddos, it's distracting!
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of American Baby magazine.