Safety Tips for Driving with a Baby on Board

It’s normal for parents to be concerned about protecting their baby in the car, especially on the busy streets of St. Louis. The nonprofit organization Trailnet reported over 14,000 injuries and 178 deaths from traffic accidents in St. Louis City and County during 2021. Taking extra steps to protect your young child from the dangers of a car accident is always a wise choice.

The best protection you can offer your baby in the car is a properly installed car seat, but you can take additional steps to ensure safety on the road. Learn how to keep your baby safe during a car ride and how Cofman Townsley can help in the event of an auto accident.

Install the Car Seat Properly

Your baby’s car seat is the first line of defense in a car accident, yet most people don’t ensure they’re correctly secured. According to the CDC, 46% of infant and child car seats are not used properly, which can have serious consequences. A child’s risk of injury in a crash is reduced by 71% to 82% when a car seat is used.

When installing your child’s car seat, attach it according to manufacturer instructions. You can also consult the safety tips provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for your car seat type.

For example, newer cars allow you to attach car seats using the LATCH system in the back seat. Cars manufactured before 2002 might not have the LATCH system, in which case you’ll need to install the car seat using the seatbelt. Always install the car seat in the back seat, not the passenger seat. If the passenger airbag hits your baby’s car seat, it could have fatal consequences.

You can have your car seat inspected to ensure you installed it correctly. The NHTSA and National Child Passenger Safety Certification Program provide searchable databases to find certified car seat technicians in your area.

Only Drive When Well-Rested

New-parent sleep deprivation is common since newborn babies take several months to sleep through the night. However, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to tough it out and drive while sleep deprived. Drowsy driving resulted in 633 deaths in 2020 and 50,000 injuries in 2017.  If you’re tired, stay home or ask someone else to drive rather than getting behind the wheel with your child in the car.

Keep the Car Seat Clear of Hazards

You may want to give your baby a blanket or toy before the drive to keep them warm or distract them. However, if your baby falls asleep or the car stops suddenly, these can become choking or suffocation hazards. Keep food, toys, and bedding out of the car seat.

Some parents install hanging toys on their baby’s car seat, but these toys are not recommended because they can come loose and fly off the car seat in a car accident. Instead, choose soft toys your child can hold and keep tucked away when not in use.

Watch the Speed Limit

Even if you’re late to an appointment, it’s not safe to speed. You place yourself and your child at risk of a collision, and you could lose control of the car. 11,258 deaths occurred due to speeding in 2020, with speed contributing to 29% of all fatal accidents that year. Always avoid speeding while driving, especially when you have a child in the car. 

Limit Distractions

Distracted driving is dangerous, claiming 3,142 lives in 2020. Minimize or avoid all distractions while driving with your child, including phone calls, texting, or tending to your child’s needs. If you need directions or have to answer a phone call, use hands-free mode or pull over. Similarly, don’t keep looking back or talking to your baby in the back seat. Pay attention to the road.

Your baby’s crying can be a distraction, too. Even if you hear your baby start crying, taking your eyes off the road for too long puts you both at risk of a crash. If your baby begins crying, stop in a nearby parking lot or pull over to see what your child needs.

Stop Periodically

On longer drives, you and your baby need a break every once in a while. recommends stopping every two to three hours if driving during the daytime, as this allows you to feed your child, change their diaper, and provide playtime if needed.

Drive While Your Baby Is Asleep

While it’s not safe to use your baby’s car seat as a crib or bassinet, car seats protect your child if they fall asleep during a drive. If your baby often becomes fussy while driving or you’re planning to drive for several hours, consider driving during a time when your baby is usually napping or asleep. For example, if you need to go somewhere during the afternoon, try timing the drive to be around the same time as your baby’s afternoon nap.

Always Check the Back Seat

There are far too many reports of children accidentally left in the backseat of a hot car, with tragic results. Always check your backseat before exiting your vehicle. Consider leaving your purse, wallet, or another important item under the car seat to ensure you never accidentally forget your child in the car.

Get a Free Consultation With Cofman Townsley

Even if you take all the necessary steps to protect your child and yourself from a car accident, another person’s negligence can cause a serious accident. If you or your child suffers injuries in a car crash, contact a St. Louis car accident attorney from Cofman Townsley.

We can help you recover damages from the other party to help pay for medical bills and additional accident-related costs. Contact us today for a free initial consultation to explore your legal options.