Safety First

Actionable quick tips for making sure your child stays safe in the car

Parents can be distracted by many different factors when they're driving with a child in a car seat.

Photo by Getty Images

You're driving along, when suddenly little Sally hurdles her Cheerios at you from the back seat and begins screaming at an ear-splitting decibel level comparable to the last concert you went to (and you haven't been to one since she was born). You quickly look back at your precious daughter, averting your eyes from the road. Despite her wails, Sally seems alright, so you focus on the road again, just in time to swerve to avoid hitting a piece of tire.

Your child is your most precious cargo, yet also a distraction. This is a juxtaposition parents face when driving with their children. Even if you're not distracted by your child, you might get distracted by any number of other things. It's no wonder 69% of parents and 73% of new parents reported that they "actively worry about their children's safety in a car," according to a new study from Volvo Car USA and The Harris Poll.

The Harris Poll conducted this study on Volvo's behalf from May 21-29, 2019. For the study, The Harris Poll surveyed 2,000 licensed drivers ages 18 and older. Of these drivers, 1,236 (61.8%) were new parents – parents who had children age 2 or under at the time of the study. The remaining 764 (38.2%) drivers were adults of all ages. The survey results were published in "Volvo Reports: Child Safety in the Back Seat."

Historically, safety has always been a prime focus for Volvo. In 1959, the automaker invented the three-point safety belt, in 1964 they tested the first child restraint prototype, and in 1978 Volvo introduced the child safety booster cushion. Volvo and Britax, a car seat company which started in Europe and expanded to the United States in 1996, have partnered to come up with a variety of practical tips for parents based on the survey results.

Car Seat Research and Installation

Do your homework.

Sixty-six percent of new parents found researching car seats and car safety tools to be overwhelming. The amount of time and effort required to narrow down the many car seat options may be daunting, but it is crucial that you make the right decision. You must find a car seat that works with your vehicle, child, and budget.

Contact your car seat and/or vehicle manufacturer if you have questions.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that 59% of child seats are not installed correctly. Read your car seat instructions and your vehicle's owner manual to determine whether the car seat should be secured using the seat belt or the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system. Using both simultaneously is ineffective and discouraged, as it can lessen the security that each separately provides. Be sure to check your vehicle's manual and contact your vehicle manufacturer if you have further questions.

Use third-party resources if needed.

Safe Kids Worldwide offers a variety of resources for parents, including car seat checkups to ensure you've installed your car seat correctly. Parents can also meet with a Certified Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician, who will teach them to install their car seat. Often, local police departments and fire stations have a CPS technician on staff who can help for free.

Car Seat Use

Properly secure your child's harness.

NHTSA found that nearly 60% of child harnesses were too loose. Don't allow your child to wear a thick jacket or be covered by a blanket while in the car seat, as either of these means the harness can't be as snug as it should be. Additionally, make sure you position the harness correctly – it should be on your child's pelvis and around their chest and shoulders.

Your child's weight and height are more important than their age.

Car seat and booster seat (or "child passenger restraint system") laws vary by state. Your child's weight and height are more important than their age when deciding when to allow them to face forward in their car seat, move to a booster seat, or begin sitting in the front passenger seat.

Keep your child facing backwards in their car seat "until they reach the maximum height and weight restrictions for the seat, as rear-facing seats spread crash forces more evenly across the back of the child seat, and thereby better protect their vulnerable neck." Likewise, even once your child reaches the age at which they are technically allowed to begin sitting in a booster seat rather than a car seat, or in the front seat rather than the back seat, do not make either change if your child does not yet weigh enough and/or is not yet tall enough.

Other Tips for Parents

Always wear your seat belt.

According to the study, 71% of parents and 87% of new parents have unbuckled their seatbelts while driving with their children. This is unsafe. If you want to comfort your child or pick up their toy, pull off the road to a safe area and park before you unbuckle.

Reduce and contain loose items.

Don't keep too many items, especially large ones, in your car. Ensure that the items you do have in your car are contained as much as possible. If your child throws something at you while you're driving, this can distract you – 20% of parents report that their child has thrown a toy at them from the back seat. During a crash, objects flying through the air can cause serious harm to you or your children.

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The IIHS may increase the speeds it uses to test advanced driver aids.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently announced that it is considering changing the speeds it uses to test vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention systems. The agency currently tests the systems at 12 and 25 mph, but says that the speeds don't accurately represent the types of crashes the safety tech is meant to prevent.

Front crash preventionwww.youtube.com

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is designed to notify of a possible collision and help respond with automatic application of braking. Just like a human using the brake pedal, it can stop the car, but higher speeds make it difficult to stop in time. The new tests would be conducted at 35 to 45 mph, which is the range where a large number of rear-end crashes occur. As Automotive News noted, an IIHS study showed 43 percent of rear-end crashes occur at speeds of 45 mph or less, so it's important to have a test that shows how well the tech performs at those levels.

A whopping 85 percent of 2022 vehicles earned a "Superior" rating in the current testing regime, so the IIHS will remove it from 2023 testing and Top Safety Pick award evaluations. Their view is that, since the majority of vehicles meet the criteria, it's no longer an accurate way of evaluating performance. In its place, the agency introduced a night test for automatic emergency braking systems that will begin next year.

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Volvo will install 60 ChargePoint chargers at Starbucks locations in the west and Northwest.

Volvo

Volvo plans to be an electric-only automaker by 2030, and along the way to that goal, the automaker is investing in services and infrastructure to support its vehicles. Today, Volvo announced a partnership with coffee giant Starbucks that will provide dozens of chargers at coffee shops in the west and northwest U.S.

As part of the deal, Volvo will install up to 60 company-branded chargers at up to 15 Starbucks stores on the route between Denver and Seattle. Volvo says it aims to install charging locations every 100 miles along the 1,350-mile route between the Mile-High City and Starbucks hometown of Seattle.

Volvo-Starbucks PartnershipVolvo's goal is to install a charger every 100 miles. Volvo

Though they'll have Volvo's name on the front, the chargers are from ChargePoint, and drivers will use a built-in ChargePoint app to access services. The function is available in the vehicle's infotainment system, and will help locate and use the chargers. Volvo says all EV drivers will be able to access the chargers for a fee, but notes that its owners will get free or discounted charging.

A Volvo-Starbucks partnership isn't as crazy as it sounds at first. Beyond the fact that there's likely quite a bit of overlap in both brands' customers, the move furthers Starbucks' sustainability goals and provides Volvo owners with a free or low-cost charging solution. The project should be done by the end of this year, so keep your eyes open if you're getting coffee in a Volvo EV in the area.

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