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When it comes to real life and real kids, nothing beats live-and-learn wisdom from other parents. Here's a reality check from our site parents on what works to keep kids safe.
Road rules: Car safety basics
One inexpensive child safety item I find helpful is a small mirror attached to my passenger visor. I initially purchased it to make sure the baby was still breathing, but it's become even more helpful when driving multiple young children on playdates. You can see exactly who is punching whom and the kids think you have eyes in the back of your head!
We've always talked to our 2½-year-old about the importance of wearing a seatbelt. We never move the car an inch if it is not in place! We're not gory in our conversation, but he does know that if we got into an accident, the seatbelt would help keep us safe. He also observes other people in their cars and points out the kids and adults who are not "following the rules."
— J. Hale
From day one we've had a rule that the car doesn't move until everyone is buckled up. This has become especially important now that our little girl is old enough to buckle and unbuckle her car seat herself. On a recent trip to the zoo, Jessica decided to unbuckle her seatbelt. I told her that if she didn't fasten it again, I would stop the car until she did. She refused to obey, so I pulled the car over and sat quietly until she buckled up again. That worked great. She has never again tried to unbuckle during a trip.
Go to a car seat safety clinic to learn the proper way to install and use a car seat. After the birth of my second child I became a volunteer at one such clinic and have been totally shocked at the errors made by people installing car seats. The clinics are free and only take about 20 minutes.
Editor's note: Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website to find a car seat inspection station or event near you.
When my kids were small I would say "Hands on head" while trying to get them in the car. As soon as they were buckled in their car seats I'd shut the doors and the hands would come off their head. It started as a game and eventually they just knew to do it, or the doors didn't get closed.
Having worked in the emergency room of a decent-sized hospital for four years, I've learned a lot about car safety. I give my son only very soft toys (a cloth book, a small stuffed animal, a plush shape) to play with in the car. I also put all purchases in the trunk or behind the last seat in our minivan. I've seen too many people seriously injured in minor accidents because something inside the vehicle hit them!
My husband is a highway patrol officer and sees many children who are injured in minor accidents because of improperly installed car seats. We were concerned about our parents' understanding the proper installation techniques, so we put together an "installation and assembly guide" for all of our baby accessories. In alphabetical order we listed the products, their use, the setup and installation procedures, and the manufacturers' toll-free numbers (and the product serial number), just in case the grandparents have trouble.
Out and about: Safe shopping tips
I always use the safety strap to secure my 11-month-old in the shopping cart. If a cart with a safety strap is buried deep in the line of available carts, I ask a store employee to help me get one out. Many people are unaware that a typical grocery cart is very prone to tipping.
To ensure the safety of my three small children while shopping, I have them "hold Mom's shirt" as we shop. I know exactly where they are and it helps keep from wandering off to explore some irresistible treasure.