How to Keep Your Child Safe While Inside a Vehicle - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Sep 18, 2023

How to Keep Your Child Safe While Inside a Vehicle

We know that keeping your child safe is your number one priority. According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among children. “In 2018 more than 97,000 children were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, and 636 children 12 years old and younger succumbed to those injuries. Of the children 12 years old and younger who perished in a crash in 2018, 33% were not buckled up.”

It’s important to know that as parents and caregivers, we can make a lifesaving difference when we follow the correct safety procedures. Continue reading to learn more.


What Can I Do to Keep My Child Safe While Riding in the Car?

The obvious answer might be to simply put them in a car seat or make sure that they are buckled in. Unfortunately, that is only a half truth. Of course you want to make sure your children are both buckled in and, depending on their age, in a booster seat or car seat, but it’s important to not to let your safety precautions stop there.


Know Which Stage Your Child Is in for Their Car Seat

It’s important to make sure children are properly buckled in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt depending on whichever is appropriate for their weight, height, and age. According to the CDC guidelines for child passenger safety:


Rear Facing Car Seat

Between birth and the ages of two to four, it is critical that you use a rear-facing car seat. Infants and toddlers should be buckled into rear-facing car seats, in the back seat of any vehicle until they reach the maximum height and weight limits of that particular seat. Be sure to review the car seat manual and it’s labels for said weight and height limits.


Forward Facing Car Seat

If your child has outgrown the height and weight requirements for their car seat and are under the age of five, you can move to a forward-facing car seat. Forward facing car seats should be in the backseat of your vehicle. Again, be sure to review the car seat manual and labels on the car seat for weight and height limits.


Booster Seat

Once your child has outgrown the height and weight limits for their forward-facing car seat, you can then graduate to a booster seat. Please note that they should be buckled into a belt-positioning booster seat in the back of your vehicle until a seat belt fits them properly. According to the CDC, “a seat belt fits properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt lays across the chest (not the neck).”


Seat Belt

Once the seat belt fits your child properly without the aid of a booster seat, you no longer need to use one. However, it's critical for the health and safety of your child that they be wearing a seat belt on every trip. As previously mentioned, seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt lays across the chest (not the neck). The CDC also states that a proper seat belt fit usually occurs when children are about four feet and nine inches tall and aged between nine and twelve years. It’s important to know that seat belt fit can vary by vehicle, so you will need to check the fit in all vehicles.

Properly Installing Your Child’s Car Seat 

Installing a child car seat can feel intimidating. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available to make sure it’s done correctly. For example, you can reach out to a certified child passenger safety technician by clicking on this link. If you have decided to install the car seat yourself, be sure to review the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly and take your time. You can find more information about how to install your child’s car seat by clicking here.


What Should my Child Wear While in a Car Seat?

Puffy clothing, such as winter jackets, should never be worn by children while in a car seat, as they don’t allow you to fully tighten the car seat’s straps. Dress your child in their winter attire on the trip to the car, but remove it before buckling them in. You can add a blanket to ensure they are warm during your ride.


Preventing Heatstroke

Unfortunately, picking out and installing the correct car seat isn’t the only thing you need to worry about when it comes to child passenger safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 15 child fatalities have been reported due to heatstroke in 2021 alone. Heatstroke is one of the leading causes of non-crash related fatalities among children. It’s important to know that heatstroke begins when a person’s core body temperature reaches roughly 104 degrees Fahrenheit and the thermoregulatory system becomes overwhelmed. For that reason, among many others, children should never be left alone in or around a vehicle for any reason. Even when the weather is cooler, your vehicle can quickly heat to dangerous, often deadly temperatures.



  • Make a point of looking in your back seat every time you lock and leave your vehicle. You might consider leaving a note on the seat next to you or taped to your front console as a reminder.
  • Once you and your child have exited the vehicle, be sure to lock your car doors behind you and keep your keys out of reach of children. According to the NHTSA, three in every ten heatstroke fatalities occur when a child is left unattended and gains access to a vehicle.
  • If you see something, DO SOMETHING. Do not hesitate to take action if you notice a child alone in the car. If the child is not responsive, call 911, do whatever you can to get the child out of the car and look to spray the child with cool water. If the child is responsive, first remove the child from the vehicle and then call 911. Stay with the child until help arrives.


Symptoms of Heatstroke:

  • Red, hot, and moist or overly dry skin
  • Lack of sweat
  • A weak pulse or a rapid pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stranger behavior or confusion


Preventing Vehicle Rollaway Accidents

Although advancing technology is reducing the rate at which these types of accidents are occurring, it’s still important to stay vigilant. Vehicles with keyless ignition and push-button start features are especially vulnerable to this type of accident. This is because the vehicle can be easily turned off before being placed in park. For this reason, it is essential that you engage your emergency parking brake every time you park.



  • Always be sure that your vehicle had been shifted into park before shutting it down and exiting.
  • Always keep your vehicle locked when not in use or unattended.
  • Never leave keys in or near your vehicle when not in use.
  • Supervise children and keep them away from unattended vehicles.


Preventing Trunk Entrapment and Power Window Accidents

Children are often naturally curious and while that can be a good thing during the appropriate times, it can also end up getting them hurt. It’s important to know that even though many cars have safety settings for things like power windows and trunks, you should not rely on those features to ensure the safety of your child. Think of them as an addition to your safety plan rather than the safety plan itself.



  • Teach children that vehicles are not toys and should not be played in or around.
  • Teach children not to touch buttons or switches inside vehicles.
  • Teach children to keep all body parts inside the vehicle during all trips.
  • Before closing a window or sunroof, check to be sure no fingers, toes, or other body parts are hanging out.
  • Always apply the child safety lock on windows and doors when available.
  • Teach children the dangers of playing or hiding in a trunk.
  • Teach children how to escape from a trunk in case they ever find themselves trapped.


Avoiding the Extras

Be sure to remove items from your car that are unnecessary and to either lock down or strap in anything that is necessary. You’ll want to avoid keeping anything in the backseat  that can become a projectile. Think heavy or hard plastic toys, sippy cups, even mirrors. If it’s not something you would feel comfortable getting hit in the face with, you should remove it from the vehicle.


For more child passenger and vehicle safety related content, check out the link below.