It’s that time again – your big kiddos are going back to school! Along with back-to-school shopping for the latest fashions, Sharpie ®markers, Papermate ®pens, Rubbermaid® LunchBlox™ and pencils, you may be gearing up for another back-to-school tradition: carpooling. Of course, whenever cars and kids are involved, safety is the top priority. So, as your little (or big!) one heads back to school this year, we hope you’ll enjoy our helpful tips – based on the respected American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendations – to help keep all kids safe on their way to school, whether riding with you or your carpool partner.
Proper use of a car seat – or booster – is essential to help keep all of the pint-sized passengers in your car safe. Here are some of our top tips:
- Buckle Up! Every passenger in the car (even the adult driver – it’s important to set a good example) should wear a seatbelt and / or use an age- and size-appropriate car seat or booster. When your child is riding with another family OR an extra child is riding in your car, it’s smart to plan ahead to make sure all little ones have an appropriate car seat or booster. There are plenty of affordable options so that you can keep an extra on hand!
- Wait to Graduate!It’s important that your child ride in a car seat with a harness as long as possible. Your child is ready to “graduate” to a booster when any one of these is true:
- He has reached the maximum weight or height allowed for the seat
- His ears have reached the top of the seat
- His shoulders are above the top harness slots
Aside from the specific recommendations on size and weight, it’s important to consider the individual child when deciding if they’re ready to “graduate” to the next seat in the progression. For instance, you’ll want to make sure your child is mature enough to keep the seatbelt properly positioned, without wiggling and letting the shoulder strap slip down or putting the belt behind his back.
- Check the Fit! Keep your child in an appropriate booster until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly on its own (typically this happens when your child is about 4’9”). To check, you’ll want to make sure that your big kid is tall enough to sit against the seat back with his legs bent and feet hanging down. The shoulder belt should lie flat (never twisted!) across the middle of the chest and shoulder (not the neck or throat) and the lap belt should sit low and snug across the child’s thighs (not the stomach).
- Back Seat is Best! The AAP recommends that children younger than 13 years old should ride in the back seat.
Carpooling with a buddy is fun – there are lots of fun “I spy” car games and whispered conversations to be had – but staying safe is always the first priority!
As an experienced parent, do you have any tips to share? Be sure to leave your comments below. Happy safe trips!