ORLANDO, FL --- As a kick-off to National Child Passenger Safety Week, AAA offers 10 ways to help keep children safe in vehicles.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages two to 14, and the leading cause of injury-related death for children under age two, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2006, on average, three to four children were killed each day and more than 500 were injured as occupants in motor vehicle crashes.
Here are 10 Ways to child-proof a vehicle:
1. Secure loose items -- Loose items such as purses, briefcases, laptops, CDs and umbrellas can potentially become flying projectiles during a sudden stop or crash. Make sure any items in your vehicle -- including those in both the front and back seat areas -- are secured to avoid harming vehicle occupants. A 10-pound laptop bag can have 300 pounds of force in a 30 mph crash.
2. Use child locks -- Be sure to engage child safety locks on the vehicle doors to keep children from opening the door while the vehicle is in motion.
3. Use correct safety restraint -- Always use the safety restraint system appropriate for a child's age, height and weight. There are four stages of safety restraint systems: Rear-facing child safety seat; forward-facing child safety seat; booster seat; and lap and shoulder belts. Assistance in identifying the correct safety restraint for a child based on age, height and weight is available at www.AAA.com/CarSeat.
4. Install seat correctly -- Three out of four child safety seats are improperly installed, according to NHTSA. When installing a safety seat, be sure to read the installation instructions thoroughly. It's best to have a seat checked by a certified technician. You can find a local technician at www.SeatCheck.org. Prior to purchasing a safety seat, parents can find information on how easy particular safety seat features are to use and properly install from NHTSA's ease-of-use ratings.
When installing a child safety seat with LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), be sure to buckle the unused seat belt prior to installing the safety seat to prevent possible strangulation. Do not install the seat using LATCH and the seat belt together.
5. Position away from air bags -- Children should be positioned away from both front passenger airbags as well as side-impact airbags. All children should be seated in the backseat until age 13. It's best to position children away from side-impact airbags because leaning or resting their head against the airbag when it is deployed could result in injury or death.
6. Entertain with soft toys -- Give children only soft toys to play with in the vehicle. Hard toys can become dangerous projectiles during a sudden stop or crash. They also can be harmful to other vehicle occupants if thrown by the child while playing.
7. Secure unused safety seats -- Always make sure unused safety seats and attachments are secured in a vehicle. Booster seats or car seats should be buckled up even when they are not in use to avoid becoming airborne during a sudden stop or crash. Unused LATCH and tether attachments from safety seats should also be secured to avoid injuring occupants.
8. Avoid non-regulated products -- Do not use any non-regulated products, such as mirrors, window covers, harness covers or extra padding, that are not recommended by your child safety seat manufacturer. These products or add-on accessories may cause injury to children or other occupants during acrash.
9. Lock parked vehicles' doors and trunks -- Keep the doors, trunks and hatchbacks locked and the keys out of reach when the vehicle is not in operation to eliminate any risk of children climbing into the vehicle. Children should understand vehicles are not a place to play.
10. Adult supervision -- One of the best ways to child-proof a vehicle is to always have adult supervision in and around vehicles. Children should never be left unattended in a vehicle -- with or without the engine running.