Driving is one of the most convenient and popular forms of travel for people living in the U.S. From commuting to work to driving children to school, it has become something that many depend on. Safety is an important issue for drivers, even more so for families with children. Because motor vehicle accidents are one of the nation's primary causes of death, it is important for parents and all drivers to take precautions when behind the wheel. Although some accidents are beyond a person's ability to control, it is still possible to reduce the risk of severe injury and death. Certain practices, when adhered to, are meant to enhance the safety of adults and kids riding in vehicles.
Seat belts are an important preventative safety system that is designed to protect passengers in vehicles from being injured or thrown from the vehicle in the event of an accident. Also known as vehicle restraints or safety belts, seat belts limit the amount of movement that a person makes and helps prevent injury or death that would potentially occur if a person were thrown into a dashboard, another passenger, or the windshield or ejected from the vehicle entirely. In order to provide the maximum amount of protection, seat belts must be worn properly. This means that both the lap and shoulder harness must have a snug fit, with the shoulder strap resting over the shoulder and across the body diagonally. To prevent injury, the belt should rest flat and be free of twists or kinks. Safety belts should be worn or used by all passengers in a car; even car seats have a type of harness that acts as a seat belt for children. In the case of a car seat, the seat belt is one of the methods of securing it in the vehicle. Safety belts should be worn at all times, in every car, even those that have air bags. Some people may believe that air bags diminish or eliminate the need for seat belts: Although they increase the effectiveness of safety belts by providing an extra cushion from impact, air bags alone do not fully protect the passenger.
From the first ride home with a newborn infant, parents must use a car seat. As a result, parents are often well versed in the types of car seats that are available. The type of seat that a child sits in changes over time as laws and the child's size and body weight dictate changing safety needs and requirements. Newborn infants are required to sit in a rear-facing infant-only car seat or a convertible, rear-facing seat. They are to remain in these seats until they are either two years old or they reach the car seat manufacturer's suggested weight and height limits. By this time, most children are toddlers or preschoolers, and the appropriate car seat is one that faces forward. These car seats will also have weight and height limits that must be followed. These limits are furnished by the manufacturer and will help parents know when to move their children into booster seats. Booster seats help to position the seat belts so that they fit properly on the child to correctly restrain them in the car's seat. Children remain in booster seats until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between the ages of 8 and 12. Once this height and age goal has been met, children are then able to sit without a booster seat and safely rely on the lap and shoulder seat belts that adults use. Until a child reaches the age of 13, however, they should remain in the back seat of the vehicle and never in the front. Even car seats for newborns must be in the back seat of a car.
Traffic laws often vary from one state to the next. For that reason, it is prudent for drivers to not only know the traffic laws in their own state but also any state that they intend to drive in. Basic driving rules should always be adhered to, such as heeding traffic signs, maintaining the appropriate speed for the road and weather conditions, using turn signals appropriately, and maintaining a safe driving distance. Drivers should allow three seconds between vehicles in good weather conditions and six seconds between vehicles in rainy weather conditions. These are rules that are generally universal regardless of the state. For the safety of drivers and passengers, drivers should avoid driving while distracted. Most often, people think of distracted driving as texting or talking on cell phones while operating a vehicle. While this is true, there are also other ways that drivers can be distracted. Anything that removes the driver's attention from the act of driving is a potential problem, including conversations with passengers, eating, and even the antics of passengers and children within the car. For their safety, passengers should refrain from doing anything that can hinder the driver's ability to operate the vehicle. Depending on the age of the driver, some states may even limit the number, or in some cases the age, of passengers that may ride in vehicles driven by teens. For this reason, it is important that drivers understand the distracted driving laws in their state. Other safety practices to adhere to include not driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Passengers in vehicles can also protect themselves by never getting in the car with a person who has been drinking and by not allowing a person who has been drinking to drive.
When driving, safety should always be the most important consideration. A driver must not only think of their safety but also that of the passengers inside of the vehicle as well. If there are children in the vehicle, special safety considerations must be taken into account, particularly when it comes to seat restraints. In general, following basic safety rules and laws are key to keeping oneself and one's family as safe as possible while on the road.
By: Daniel Watson