How to Keep Kids & Pets Safe in Your Car

 By Diane Tait

While owning and operating a motor vehicle is one of the privileges of modern society, it doesn’t come without a few caveats.  First and foremost is the responsibility of every driver to make sure they and their passengers get where they’re going safely.  Even though today’s vehicles ae vastly safer than those of yesteryear, it still shocks me when I see how many people are needlessly injured because they neglect to take advantage of many of the safety features that are built into their vehicles at the factory.  What’s even more tragic is when the injured parties are not yet old enough to drive.  To help you keep your kids and pets safe when you take to the open road, I’ve come up with a short list of do’s and don’ts that are designed to protect that most precious of cargoes. 

1.      Baby On Board – We’ve all seen the decal affixed to the back window of a vehicle that reads Baby On Board.  While this warning sticker is meant to alert other drivers to the fact that an infant is in the backseat, what sometimes takes a backseat to safety is when parents don’t properly secure their baby in an approved child safety seat.  When it comes to seats designed for infants, most states require that they face rearward. This is to prevent whiplash injuries in the case of a crash.   If you’re unsure of which child safety seat is right for you, the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) offers an app that’s designed to help you match safety seats with your child based on age, height and weight.  Consumer Reports also has a video that’s designed to show you the ins and outs of choosing an appropriate car seat for your child. 

2.      One-size-fits-all doesn’t apply to child safety seats. – As your child grows, you’ll need to swap safety seats for ones that are age-appropriate.  You’ll also need to be familiar with their proper installation to ensure your child’s safety.  While this sounds like a daunting task, there are places you can go online to learn how to get it right.  One of the best resources is the Ultimate CarSeat Guide, an interactive website published by Safe Kids Worldwide.  The site contains tabs that are designed to help parents buy and correctly install the right child safety seats for their kids.  They even offer a handy tab that will clue you in on the right time to change one child seat for another as your kids mature.  

3.      Right Seat, Wrong Installation – Having the correct child safety seat won’t protect your precious cargo if it is improperly installed.  To help you avoid needlessly injuring your kids on the road, the NHTSA offers a free service that will help you make sure that your child safety seats are safely installed and are not being recalled by the manufacturer.  They’ll also tell you where you can go to have your child safety seats inspected.  Registration for this service is free.  All you have to do is point and click over to their website

4.      Can safety features designed for adults endanger your children? – One of the reasons that child seats need to be properly installed in modern vehicles is due to the fact that automotive safety features for drivers and adult passengers can harm children.  This is especially true when it comes to airbags.  While airbags have greatly reduced the incidence of injury to adult drivers and passengers, they were never designed with children in mind.  When triggered, airbags deploy at speeds as high as 200 MPH.  While doing a faceplant on an airbag is preferable to hitting the dashboard or windshield, since airbags are designed to deploy at heights that are appropriate for adults, these same safety features can severely injure kids.  Everything from neck and eye injuries to facial trauma, rib fractures and head injuries can be caused to children who are subjected to airbag deployment.

5.    When is it safe to let kids use regular seatbelts? – According to a report issued by Nemours Children’s Hospital, Kids can start wearing a regular seatbelt when they can easily rest their back against the seat of the car and bend their knees over the edge of the seat. Usually, this happens when kids are between 8 and 12 years old and around 4 feet 9 inches (about 150 centimeters) tall.”

6.      How to keep teens and tween safe in your vehicle. – Just as with child safety seats, it’s important that teens and tweens not only wear seatbelts whenever they ride in your car, it’s doubly important that their seatbelts are properly adjusted for their diminutive frames.  This not only means that parents need to make sure their kids are securely buckled up, they also need to make sure their children aren’t slouching or fidgeting in the backseat to make certain that in the event of a collision, the seatbelts don’t do more harm than good.

7.      Keeping your pets purrfectly safe on the road. – Being a dog owner myself, it has come to my attention that some motorists don’t sufficiently restrain their dogs and cats in their vehicles.  All too many times when I see a dog or cat in someone else’s car, they’re free to roam around the front or backseat.  Or worse, I’ve seen people put their dogs in the open bed of a pickup truck.  If you really love your pets and value your own safety, you’ll stop letting Fluffy have the run of your vehicle. In the first place, should you wind up in even a fender bender, your dog or cat could wind up either being thrown from the vehicle or they could wind up becoming a projectile that could injure you or a passenger.  Another hazard that many motorists who drive with pets fail to heed is the fact that a loose animal can wind up getting under the driver’s feet, which won’t end well for either.

8.      How to keep your pet safe in any vehicle. – There are only two ways to keep your pets secure inside a vehicle.  That’s to either crate them or buy a harness designed to be attached to a seatbelt.  Even if you decide to use a doggie or kitty crate, for goodness sake make sure you keep it inside the vehicle or secured to the bed of your pickup.  If you don’t and you should be involved in a collision, there’s a high likelihood that the crate will wind up ejected along with your cherished pet.  If you use a harness, make sure you install it as per the manufacturer’s instructions.  

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


  1. Even after all this time, most people still don't understand Newton's first law of motion. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion until acted upon by an equal and opposite force.

  2. I have not had a lot of trouble with kids, but my 75 lb dog is another issue. Thanks for the tips.


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