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NHTSA: Reducing the danger to kids in vehicles

We've all heard the warnings. Never leave a child or a pet in a hot car. But people forget, and it often ends in tragedy.

There are many reasons these tragedies occur, but one reason is that people don't realize how quickly a cool car can become dangerously hot -- or just how hot cars can get.

Another reason is that people don't realize that heatstroke is a year-round danger. According to Consumer Reports, the first pediatric heatstroke death this year happened on April 25. A child snuck outside and into an unlocked car. It was only 78 degrees F that day.

In fact, Consumer Reports found that a vehicle could reach a potentially deadly 105 degrees F in just an hour, even when the outside temperature is just 61 degrees F.

Park. Look. Lock. It's one of two safety messages for parents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). When you park your car, check carefully to ensure that no kids are inside the car and then lock it so that no kids get in later. This is especially important during the pandemic, when many people are using their cars less often.

  • If your child goes missing, the first place to check is the pool, if you have one. The next place to check is the car, including the trunk.
  • If you see a small child alone in a car, call 911.

Almost half of all child safety seats are installed incorrectly

According to NHTSA, another major risk to children is incorrectly installed car seats. Unfortunately, you may not realize your car seat is not installed correctly. Most parents and caregivers believe that they have installed the seat correctly. However, 46% of those parents and caregivers are wrong.

Get to know the four child restraint systems:

  • Rear-facing car seats: Designed for newborns and babies
  • Front-facing car seats: For toddlers and young children
  • Booster seats: For older children under 12
  • Seat belts: For kids 12 and older

Generally, you should keep your child in the most protective seat as long as possible. Only move to the next type of seat if your child no longer meets the height and weight limits for the previous seat.

When installing a new car seat, familiarize yourself with all the parts and what they are for. Then, carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions. Then, before you use the seat, get it inspected. This is generally free and is available at many police and fire stations. Also, register your seat with the manufacturer so they will notify you if the seat is recalled.

Make sure your kids are in their car seats every time you drive.

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