Health Manager Orientation Guide

Child Passenger Safety in Motor Vehicles

Woman securing a child in the car seatAccording to the CDC, motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among young children. Parents who know how to choose and use a car seat can help children stay safe in a car crash. Using a correctly installed car seat, booster seat, or seat belt that is right for a child’s age, height and weight, and developmental needs can protect them from injury and death. Educate all adults, especially pregnant people, about how to protect themselves in a motor vehicle with seat belts. Head Start staff can use the Keeping Children Safe in Vehicles flip chart to share information with families and caregivers about what they can do to keep themselves and their child safe in a motor vehicle.

Programs should communicate a plan to staff and families for safe, supervised drop-off and pickup points and pedestrian crosswalks in the vicinity of the facility. Staff training includes procedures to account for children at all times, especially when they are getting in and out of vehicles.

Promoting safe transportation protects children as they travel to and from program activities and within their community. When a child is left in a hot vehicle, that child’s temperature can rise quickly — and they could die within minutes. A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than adults. About 40 children die each year from heatstroke caused by being left in a vehicle. It’s important everyone understand that children are especially vulnerable to heatstroke. All hot car deaths are preventable.

Tips and Strategies for Keeping Children Safe in and Around Motor Vehicles

Ensure staff and families are aware of these risk reduction strategies:

  • Share resources such as The Ultimate Car Seat Guide and Keeping Kids Safe: A Parent’s Guide to Protecting Children in and Around Cars with families.
  • Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended — even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running, and the air conditioning is on.
  • Make it a habit to check the entire vehicle — front and back — before locking the door and walking away.
  • Head Start providers should call a family member if a child doesn’t show up for care within 10 minutes of their expected arrival. Let families know that if someone else is driving their child, they should always check to make sure the child has arrived safely.
  • Place an item such as a purse or briefcase in the back seat as another reminder to look before locking.
  • Write a note or place a stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a reminder that a child is in the back seat.
  • Keep vehicles locked when parked to prevent curious children from entering when no one is around.
  • Store car keys out of a child’s reach and teach children that a vehicle is not a play area.
  • Be extra alert when there is a change in routine such as taking a different route.