Injury is the #1 killer of children and teens in the United States. In one year alone, more than 9,000 youth age 0-19 died from unintentional injuries in the US while millions more suffer injuries requiring treatment in the emergency department. Leading causes of child injury include motor vehicle crashes, suffocation, drowning, poisoning, fires, and falls. Child safety is among the most under-recognized public health problems facing our country today.
The good news is child injury is predictable and preventable!
Our guest contributor, Rachel O’Connor shares some important information to help keep children safe while on the road this summer. It could help save a child’s life!
5 Safety Techniques to Remember When Preparing the Family Car for Adventure
There’s no better summer vacation than a good old-fashioned road trip. Road trips are just as much about the journey as they are about the destination, so let’s look at what to consider before you hit the road. Here, we’ll share five safety techniques to remember when preparing the family car for an adventure!
- Check the Tires
Tires are one of the most important things to check on your car. After all, they’re the things that get you from point A to point B safely. When checking your tires, check the air pressure, tire tread, rotation, and alignment.
- Tire Pressure – Checking the tire pressure in your tires is a quick fix and will save you a lot of hassle on the road. Not only will keeping your tires fully inflated keep you safe, but it will also help you get better gas mileage. Check your car’s door for a chart on the adequate tire pressure and stop at a local gas station for free air.
- Tire Tread – A tire’s tread shows its age, and if your tires are too bald, you may be exposing yourself to danger. One easy way to check your tires’ tread is the “Penny Test”. This could also be a great thing to teach your kids because it’s not just useful, it’s actually kind of fun! Put a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of his head, your tread depth is less than 2/32” and it’s time to replace your tires. Tire experts recommend having at least 3/32” of tire tread, and 4/32” is ideal.
- Tire Rotation – Rotating your tires regularly will help keep you safe and extend the life of your tires. Each tire will wear differently, which is why it’s important to rotate them regularly to even out the usage. Most mechanics recommend rotating your tires every 5,000 miles or six months, but consult your car’s manual for an exact estimate.
- Tire Alignment – Like rotating your tires, making sure your wheels are aligned will help keep you safe and your tires in good shape. A quick test to tell if your alignment is good is to safely drive the car without steering for a few seconds to see if it tracks straight. If not, you likely need to have it aligned. Depending on how your car is driven, mechanics recommend checking the alignment every six months.
- Check the Brakes
No parent wants to put their child in danger, but if you are driving on faulty, brakes, you may be doing just that. Before you head out on your summer adventure, make sure always to get the brakes checked. Below are some signs that your brakes need maintenance:
- Screeching sounds when you brake
- Vibration in the pedal
- Less responsiveness
- A warning light on your dashboard
When you have your tires rotated or your alignment checked every six months, throw a brake check in there, as well. Your mechanic will check both your brake pads and the drum/rotor.
- Check the Rest of the Car
Tires and brakes are important, but so is the rest of the car! Before you head out on your summer road trip, make sure to check the following to assure your ride is in tip-top shape:
- Check the windshield wipers and windshield wiper fluid (you’ll want to easily be able to wash off all those splattered bugs!)
- Make sure you double check all seat belts and kid seats to ensure that they are in good working order
- Check your car battery
- Schedule necessary services, like oil changes and tune-ups
Scheduling a check-up and performing basic maintenance on your vehicle before heading out will help assure your car is safe, efficient, and reliable.
- Pack Smart
Especially when traveling with young kids, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. After you’ve made sure the car is in great condition, start creating your packing list well before the road trip adventure. That way, you’re less likely to forget anything the day of. Below are some packing tips to help you hit the road safely and comfortably:
- Bring an emergency kit in the event of an accident or medical issue. Your emergency kit might include a flashlight, blanket, first-aid kit, and basic tools. Also, bring water and extra snacks, just in case.
- Check your vehicle’s load capacity to make sure you aren’t packing too much. The total weight you can carry will likely be printed inside the driver’s door jam. This load rating includes both passengers and cargo. Remember, your MPGs will be reduced with extra cargo. Roof-top cargo boxes shouldn’t be overfilled, as heavy loads on the roof can make the vehicle more difficult to handle in emergency situations and increase the risk of a rollover.
- If you’re driving with little ones, pack enough snacks, water, games, videos, and music to keep them comfortable and occupied during the trip.
- Stop Frequently
Lastly, don’t be afraid to stop frequently. Any pro road tripper knows that the journey is part of the fun, so don’t feel like you have to rush through the whole drive. Stopping frequently will help keep the kids entertained, break up the trip for the driver, and make sure they don’t get too tired. It’s extremely beneficial to get out, stretch your legs, and take in the sights of your pit stop. Plan an itinerary before hitting the road to really make an efficient trip!
These five safety techniques will guarantee that you and the family will have a fun and safe road trip this summer. To learn even more about traveling with children or preventable child injury, check out this page for more information.
Rachel is a freelance writer and a self-proclaimed “Travelholic” currently writing for Volkswagen Kennesaw. She is honored to be writing for American SPCC and strongly believes in their mission to nurture and protect children, give kids a voice, and ensure that every child has the chance to blossom into an outstanding adult. In her free time, you can find her planning her next trip, running with her dogs, or heading to the closest farmers’ market.
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