Parents remember to baby-proof their homes when a new baby comes but often overlook doing the same for their vehicles.
Fortunately baby proofing the car is relatively simple. Let’s jump right in and look at the steps you need to take to get your car to a baby-safe state.
Strap up your baby
Studies have proven that children who do not travel in a car seat are up to for times more likely to suffer from a serious injury in a car crash, even from a low-speed collision.
If you were to have a car crash right now, how would you want your child to be traveling? I’ll bet just about all of you thought “in a car seat”. While convenience can be an issue for parents who are already time-poor and car seats can be a pain to set up, it is important that you get into a habit of using a car seat for your child’s sake.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping your child in a rear-facing car seat until the age of two.
It’s not enough to simply go out and purchase any old car seat. You have to choose the correct car seat based on your child’s height and weight. You must also carefully follow the instructions to ensure you have installed the car seat correctly. These simple steps must be followed in order for your car seat to effectively secure your child.
Remember, only buy a used car seat if you are 100% confident of its history. Avoid used car seats from the thrift store or when buying online. Like a bicycle helmet, a car seer must be replaced if it has been in an accident.
The following travel seat is highly rated among many parents.
Baby seat position
The best position to install your baby’s travel seat is in the middle back seat. The middle seat offers the furthest distance from the sides of the car. If you were to be involved in a side-on collision (touch wood you’re not), the outer seats will take a direct hit while the middle seat has a space buffer.
Installing your baby seat in the middle can also prevent your child from playing around with switches and locks on the door.
If your car does have the necessary anchors required to install the seat in the middle back then the next safest option is the seat behind the driver. A driver will instinctively steer away from danger to protect him or herself. By installing the seat in line with the driver this reflex action will also protect your baby.
Watch your little one
Now the problem with having a rear-facing child seat is that without turning around you can not easily see your child. Turning around while driving is a dangerous practice and studies have shown that small children can be just as distracting as a mobile phone. So how do you monitor your cheeky passenger without turning around?
The easiest way to solve this problem is with the addition of a safety mirror. These mirrors are purpose-built and attach directly to the rear seat headrest. Now rather than turn around to view your baby, you simply look into your rear vision mirror and see your baby’s reflection in the rear seat mirror. Simple and effective.
When choosing a mirror to buy, I recommend one with a curved face. This allows a greater viewing angle and is particularly useful if you have more than one baby seat installed, allowing you to see all your children at once.
Enable Child locks
Press a button and the windows move. Pull a lever and the door opens. The car door is actually more entertaining than many store-bought toys. Bad news for your baby, car doors is not the safest of toys.
By child locking the doors your little one will be unable to open the doors from the inside, preventing doors from being opened while driving. You will be required to open the door from the outside to let your little one free to run amuck.
Many modern cars also allow the windows to be locked closed as well, preventing your child from using them as a plaything or throwing toys through the open window.
Declutter the car
Cars can easily accumulate junk such as receipts, loose shopping bags, empty drink bottles, even (ironically) car cleaning products. If these objects were to enter your child’s hands then they could present a choking or health hazard.
If your car’s interior has become somewhat of a garbage tip then it may be time to give it a much needed clean. Are a clean car and baby-proofing done at once? You can’t lose.
If your store your car cleaning products in the car you can continue to do so, just away from your child. Set up a small compartment in the trunk dedicated to your car care products. Doing so will keep the cleaners in a convent location but out of your baby’s reach.
Watch out for a mess
If you are already a parent then what I am about to say will come as no surprise. Babies make a mess. Even if I graduated from university with a Ph.D. in Messology, I still could not make a mess as easily and professionally as a baby.
Your child’s seat may be fitted with a removable cover that can be washed but what about the seat underneath? A car seat cover can cause your child’s seat to slide from side to side during travel and is not recommended. Fortunately, the solution is simple. A beach towel spread out underneath the car seat will not only catch whatever your baby throws at it but is also easy to clean.
Removable floor carpets will help protect the floor below the baby seat. If your car does not currently have any floor mats be sure to throw down a second towel for protection.
Leather seats need love
Constant use of a baby seat will cause the leather on your car seat to quickly deteriorate. While a towel will protect your leather seats from baby grime, it will not stop the baby seat from stressing the leather.
If you have leather seats and children and want to keep both of them then you are going to have to invest in a purpose-made seat protector.
I cannot stress enough that you should thoroughly research before purchasing a seat protector. Many poorer quality seat protectors will actually “melt into your leather seat” on hot days. This is a problem commonly associated with rubber backed seat protectors.
Many parents with leather seats report that the seat protector below works great on leather seats.
Diffuse the sun
Have you ever driven down the road with your arm on the window only to discover on reaching your destination that your arm is now a lovely shade of red? The sun is a harsh mistress and if there is one thing she loves, it’s burning skin.
While window tinting can help reduce the sun’s rays, it is not a foolproof solution. Unless your car’s tinting is very dark, it will still allow enough of the harsh sunlight through to burn your baby’s delicate skin.
Baby skin is much more sensitive than an adult’s and needs to be protected at all costs. A sunshade, also known as a window shade or sun shield, provides an additional layer of protection between the sun and your baby while maintaining visibility.
A sticker sunshade is a semi-permanent solution. It acts as an extra piece of tinting and sticks directly on top of the window glass. Sticker shades can be cut to suit any car window size.
A fabric sunshade is less permanent and can easily be repositioned. Some parents report issues on getting fabric shades to stick to their car’s windows while others swear by them.
Keep the car locked when not in use
Locking up your car is not only a good solution for deterring theft, but can also keep your child safe tool.
Kids often play by emulating behavior they see in adults. Given the opportunity you may find your little one playing with the break, shifting or even attempting to turn the car on. Obviously, this is an accident waiting to happen.
If your child can’t access it, it can’t be played with. Keeping the car locked is the simplest way to prevent any play-related mishaps.
Leaving your child alone in a vehicle
If you are just going to run into a shop for a minute, you may feel that it is too much effort to unbuckle your baby and take him with you. Heatstroke is a serious risk for any child left alone in a locked car, so serious that it is illegal to leave a child unattended in a car in certain states.
With external temperatures over 60 degrees Fahrenheit a car can heat up to well over 110 degrees. A child can die at temperatures of 107 or more. Cracking a window does little to stop the temperature from rising. The only fail-safe solution is to unbuckle your child and take him with you.
Although great parents can forget a child in the car, it is more common amongst caregivers who are not in the routine of transporting a child. If you concerned that you or someone else may leave your child unattended in the car simply leave your wallet or handbag in the back with the child. When you get out of the car you will realize you don’t have your handbag and by association, the baby.
Long Legs and Child Seats
While my partner is not freakishly tall, he does require the car seat to be in the furthest back position possible. Unfortunately, this does not leave room for a baby seat behind him.
If you are like my husband (I have always called him daddy long legs, the joke was much less funny before we had kids) then you will know that long legs are both a blessing and a curse. Fortunately, there is a cheap and easy solution to being long-legged and traveling with a baby.
This simple foam block is one product I can really get behind. Although I have stubby little legs (I am secretly jealous of all you long-legged folk), I have witnessed first hand how much it has benefitted my husband.
The foam block actually helps reduce the angle that your child sit seats at, providing more room for the front seat to move back allowing long-legged (and tall) people to ride in comfort while their child travels safe and sound in a baby seat.
Keep your child entertained
Your little one is far less likely to fidget and make noise in the car if he has his favorite toy with him. Identify your child’s favorite toy and bring it on car trips.
In the event of an accident, soft toys are less likely to cause injury upon impact than hard plastic ones. It may prove difficult but try to steer your child’s travel buddy choice towards something soft.
If your child is particularly attached to a toy it might be worth purchasing a second one as once you start taking toys on car trips they are easily misplaced.
It’s not just the inside of your car that you need to worry about when baby proofing. You may be surprised to learn that on average, 50 children are backed over by vehicles every week. Of these 50 children, 48 are treated in hospital emergency rooms and two are fatally injured.
Backing over children is more common in larger sized vehicles (trucks, vans, SUVs,). The small size of a child coupled with the blind spot just below the bumper makes these accidents unfortunately common.
Reversing cameras on modern cars can help reduce the likelihood of you reversing over your child, however, for many parents, they are not a viable option as they can be an expensive extra when choosing a car.
Backing over children is such a problem that the government passed a ruling requiring all new passenger vehicles to come with visibility technology as a standard feature. This must be implemented by May 2018. While it is a long time frame, it is good to see the government taking child safety seriously.
Your best option is to teach your child that it is not okay to play around the car at any time. Be sure to enforce the rules and discipline your child if necessary.
Car parks and children
While still on the subject of cars I thought here would be a good place to stress the importance of safety in a car park. Your child can easily run off and get hit by a car during the excitement of arriving at a new destination.
If you are having trouble teaching your child to behave in parking lots then you can train your child using the parking pal magnet below (or any fridge magnet from home for that matter).
The premise is simple, you stick the magnet to a safe zone on the side of your car. You then teach your child to place his hand on this magnet while you are packing or unpacking the car. Your child can take his hand off the magnet when under your direct supervision.
And with that, you have reached the end of another baby-proofing guide. I would love to hear what methods do you use to keep your child safe in and around your car. Let me know below.