Summer is the perfect time to hit the road, whether for a quick visit to see friends and family, a weekend getaway or a leisurely trip across the country to your favorite vacation spot. Wherever your destination, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Before heading off on your next family adventure, remember these simple rules for the road:
Buckle up, every trip and every time
Your bags are packed and securely stored, the tank is full, and snacks and entertainment for the road are set. Before leaving home, make sure that everyone is wearing a seat belt or properly secured in a child safety seat. Be sure that children are in the appropriately sized child safety seat and that the seat is correctly installed.
The stark truth is that injuries on the road are the leading cause of unintentional death to children in the United States. When used correctly, child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent.
If you aren’t sure if your child safety seat is installed correctly, a certified child safety technician can help. In Louisiana, there are about 700 certified child passenger safety technicians in the state who know how to help caregivers restrain their children properly. To locate a certified technician near you, visit umcno.org/injuryprevention.
Our University Medical Center certified technicians offer free assistance with child safety seat installation every Wednesday in our area from 1 to 4 pm at Louisiana State Police Troop B, 2101 1-10 Service Road in Kenner.
Don’t forget to also make sure that items in the vehicle, from suitcases to cell phones, are as secure as possible. In the event of a crash, these items can become airborne and cause injury. Use the cargo net in the back of the car, or store items under the seat or in compartments, to reduce this possibility. If traveling by air, please check that your child safety seat is approved by the FAA for airplane travel and is in accordance with the carrier's policy.
Stay alert and rested
Long road trips, especially with kids, can be taxing for everyone, so make sure that you’re well rested and alert before leaving. Take frequent breaks—at least every couple of hours, choosing a safe place to stop.
It should go without saying, but when driving, you should keep eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Anything else that you’re doing—adjusting the radio, adjusting a video, reaching for snacks or moderating an argument in the backseat—is a distraction that could put you at risk for a crash. If you need to do anything besides watching the road, it’s best to pull over in a safe area first. Obviously, texting or dialing on the road is a no-no, but even speaking on a phone hands-free can avert your attention from driving.
Check the back seat
Children should never be left in a parked car, even for a moment. Since January 2019, fifteen children have died after being left in vehicles. In the summer months, we hear about cases all too often. The potential for this to happen can be any time of year. Children have died in hot cars when the outside temperature was as low as 60 degrees. The biggest culprit is a change in routine. This tragedy can and does happen to parents in all walks of life—and can happen quickly. Vehicle temperatures can reach dangerous heights in just minutes, with the inside temperature getting as high as 40 degrees higher than the outside within one hour. Be vigilant about always checking the back seat.
For additional information, you can visit the Kids and Cars website.
Follow these rules of the road for a safe and enjoyable journey!
Michael Toups is an employee of University Medical Center New Orleans and the State Coordinator of Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force, a cohesive network of certified child passenger safety technicians who work to correct child safety seat misuse and make unrestrained children unacceptable in Louisiana. The program was developed by University Medical Center's Injury Prevention Program and is the result of a partnership with the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.