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Children in the Car
As a parent you do everything in your power to keep your children safe and reduce the chances of them being involved in an accident. This guide is designed to help give you some more information to help you keep them safe whilst travelling in a car, whether it’s your own or someone else’s.
There are a number of things that you can do to help keep your children safe when travelling in a car, and this guide will look at four main areas:
The first three are things that you can do in the car to physically ensure your children’s safety and the fourth is what you will need to teach them to keep themselves and others safe.
Your children should always use a car or booster seat until they are 12 years old or 135 cm tall. Once they reach either of these measurements then it is no longer a legal requirement for them to use a car seat though they may continue to do so until you think it is safe for them to stop.
Car seats should always be fitted properly using the appropriate fittings on your car and if a child is using a booster seat then they should still wear their seatbelt in the correct way described below.
For a more detailed breakdown of children’s car seats then we have this helpful guide for you to take a look at.
It is a legal requirement to wear your seatbelt when travelling in a car in the UK.
As the driver, it is your responsibility to ensure your passengers wear their seatbelt, and you will be held legally responsible for making sure any passenger under 14 years old is wearing the appropriate child restraint or seatbelt.
Police can impose a £30 fixed penalty to you for any child not wearing a seatbelt and if taken to court you could be fined up to £500.
You should always teach your child to wear their seat belt and to wear it correctly and not tucking it under their arm like some passengers do to avoid it rubbing their neck. The picture on the right shows someone putting on a seat belt in the correct way to ensure it is positioned correctly.
The seatbelt should be positioned correctly as well and if possible the height of it adjusted to fit your child’s height.
Seatbelts are designed for use by one person only so a child should never be sitting on someone’s lap with the seatbelt around them. Similarly, you should not use one seatbelt around two children even if they can both fit in the one seat as this is equally unsafe.
Children should never be in a vehicle without the appropriate restraints or seat belt as not only will it be unsafe for them but they may cause a distraction for the driver or injury to another passenger.
In most modern cars you can activate child safety locks on the rear doors. This prevents the doors from being opened from the inside of the car so your children cannot get out until you let them. Not only does it prevent them from leaving the car before you are ready to it also stops them from accidentally opening the door whilst the vehicle is moving.
Child locks are usually activated by flicking a switch on the inside of the door or selecting it from the safety options on the vehicle’s infotainment centre. If you are unsure about how to set them in your car then you can check your vehicle’s manual.
If you have power windows in the rear of your vehicle and younger children then we also recommend locking these to prevent accidents. By locking them you remove the option for your children to control the electronic window but in most cars you can still open and close the window as needed.
Keeping your child safe in the car is not only about ensuring the vehicle is safe for them but that they also know how to behave appropriately as a passenger.
While you’re driving you should keep an eye on your children to make sure they remain safely buckled up in their seats and let them know the importance of wearing seatbelts correctly.
You should teach your children to be as well behaved as possible and not to distract the driver as they need to focus on the road, either by shouting or making loud noises or if they are sat behind them by kicking the seat.
If you are going on a long drive, then you might want to provide them with a safe distraction like a book or a screen to play or watch something on.
Please note that some people, and children, can get car sick when focusing on something in the car like a book or screen so this might not work for every child.
When your children are older and able to get themselves in and out of the car then you should teach them to always check their surrounding before opening the door.
It’s also sensible to teach them to keep their hands, arms and legs inside the vehicle if the window is open, whether moving or parked.
You should never leave your child unattended in a car. Not only is it unsafe to leave a child unattended anywhere in public but there are additional risks with them leaving their seat and
When travelling with your child you should always set a good example for them as well, not distracting the driver if you’re a passenger, always wearing your seatbelt correctly and as a driver remaining calm.
There are a few other general things you might want to do when travelling with a child.
If you have loose items in the car, like children’s toys or snacks then these should be put in a secure location so that if you need to stop suddenly or are involved in an accident they do not fly around the vehicle and cause injury. Simply putting these in the pocket on the back of front seats can be enough to secure them.
You might also want to keep extra supplies in the car, like a blanket, water and healthy snacks.
You should have a blanket for each of your children so you can wrap them in it if they get cold, as well as gloves and hats during winter months in case the vehicle breaks down and you need to leave the car.
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