Summer Car Seat Safety for Your Children

Summer-specific situations call for additional care

summer car seat safety
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As the weather heats up, you and your family might be spending more time in the car. From vacations and road trips to afternoon rides to the beach or pool to cool off, here are some important summer car seat safety tips to remember to keep your little ones safe as you travel and indulge in summer fun.

General Tips for Car Summer Safety

Whether you're packing up the car for a road trip or just taking a trip down the road to hit a local park or the city pool, there are some general tips to keep in mind that will help keep your kids safe in the car.

Never Leave a Child Alone

The number one rule should be to never, ever leave your child alone in a parked car, especially during the summer. Not even for a "few minutes" or a quick errand.

Create Reminders

Experts recommend creating a reminder system to help prevent a child from being left in the car. Most deaths occur when a parent or caregiver has a change in routine and goes on "auto-pilot," forgetting the child is in the car.

For example, if you don't normally take your baby to daycare but need to drop them off on a particular morning, you might forget that they are in the car and just go to work as planned.

As a reminder, stash something in the backseat that you have to retrieve for work—like a badge or your phone. That way, you will always get in the habit of checking your backseat every time.

Get an Alarm

Purchase a baby car seat alarm for yourself and any caregivers. While the products are typically safe, some are not. Be sure that the one you buy will not interfere with the performance of the car seat in the event of a crash. If you happen to be in the market for a new car, look for one that has built-in technology that will remind you to check the backseat.

Put a System in Place

Have a system in place with your daycare (or school). The most common scenario where a child is left in a car is when a parent has forgotten to drop them off at daycare or school and instead drives straight to work.

If you have a check-in system in place, someone from your child's daycare or school will call you (or another caregiver) if they have not arrived by a certain time. You can also designate an emergency contact who can be called if you are not able to be reached.

Talking to Your Child

One of the most important things you can do is a parent is talking to your child about car safety. If your child is older, make sure they know what to do in the event that they do become trapped in a car. You might want to do a "training session" to help make sure they can follow your instructions and perform the potentially life-saving tasks.

Here are other points to consider when you are talking to your child:

  • Keep vehicles locked when parked and make sure the keys are out of the reach. This will help ensure that your kids can't take the keys and get into the car on their own.
  • Make sure that your children know that cars are not places to play (and don't let them play in the car).
  • Teach your child what to do if they do get stuck in a car. Tell them to climb into the driver's seat and honk the horn. Many kids are not strong enough to honk it with their hands. Instead, have them put their feet up on the steering wheel and practice honking it. Tell them to keep honking the horn until an adult comes to find them. You can also have them practice opening the car door (if your rear doors are child locked, instruct your child to climb into the driver's seat, and try to open that door (which is never child-locked).

Protecting Your Kids From Hot Cars

One of the biggest concerns during the summer is the relentless heat in the car. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that heatstrokes in cars are the leading non-crash related cause of death by automobiles for children under the age of 14.

An average of 37 children dies every year because they were left in a hot car. More than half of those deaths occur in children under the age of 2. Most of these cases happen in the warmer months, but they can also occur in cooler temperatures.

The top three reasons that kids die in hot cars are:

  1. They are forgotten in the car by a caregiver
  2. They are left in the car on purpose
  3. They get into an empty car and are unable to get out

Heatstroke is especially dangerous for children because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults. Kids overheat quickly, and it does not take much heat to kill a child: for example, on a 72-degree F (22 C) day, a car can reach deadly temperatures in less than 30 minutes (and rolling the windows down won't keep it cool enough).

Using Car Seats After Swimming

If you're heading home with your little one after a long day at the pool, you might be tempted to throw a towel underneath their suit to make sure that they don't soak through the car seat. It might also cross your mind to toss a towel underneath the car seat to protect your seats from sand and stray water drips.

However, for your car seat to work properly and do its job of protecting your child in the event of a crash, you should never put anything between your child and the car seat or the car seat and the car.

Never put a towel underneath your child before buckling them into their car seat. Instead, it is safe to put one layer of a towel down on the vehicle seat (under the car seat).

You can also pack a spare outfit of dry clothes to change your baby into. That way, they will be dry and comfortable on the way home. If sand is an issue, consider throwing some baby powder into your beach bag. If you sprinkle some baby powder on any sandy areas, the powder will absorb some of the moisture from the water, making it easy to brush excess sand off before you get in the car.

Car Seat Safety Tips for the Road

Traveling with kids is always interesting and comes with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. Here are some tips on keeping everyone safe on your trip.

BYOCS

Bring your own car seat, that is. The biggest concerns about rental agency car seats are that: 1. The agency does not have the car seat/booster that your family needs and 2. The family who rented the seat before you rethreaded the straps incorrectly or made another change that makes the seat unable to perform properly in a crash.

Beware of Heat Rash

Summer is a notorious time for heat rashes, and rashes from sweaty skin coming into prolonged contact with the car seat fabric are possible. Some children are also more susceptible to developing rashes in general, either because they sweat more or have more sensitive skin.

If you notice your child consistently getting rashes as a result of the car seat, there are a few things you can do:

  • Apply a diaper rash cream before a long trip to prevent chafing/irritation from the car seat.
  • Call the car seat company to see if they would be willing to offer a different fabric car seat cover that might provide better airflow.
  • Try washing the car seat cover to help remove any chemicals or coating that may be irritating the skin.

Cars can get hot quickly, which is why many car seats have metal latches. Always check the car seat for coolness before placing your child in it.

Pick Cool Colors

You might want to choose a car seat that has a lighter color, as black and other very dark fabrics will absorb more heat than a light-colored fabric. It can also help to avoid "wipe-down" type fabrics, which are more likely to make your child sweat.

Make Sure Everything Has a Place

You'll probably have a lot of supplies on hand for a long car trip. To make traveling on long car rides safer, be sure that everything has a place in the car. That means toys, games, and snacks should all be secured. You want to make sure that objects can't fly around and cause injury in the event of a crash or sudden stop.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Consumer Reports. Guide to Rear-Seat Reminder Systems. Updated July 29, 2020.

  2. Kids and Cars. Heatstroke. Updated July 30, 2020.

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