Archive for the ‘car safety’ Tag

When is it OK for Your Child to Ride in the Front Seat?

Recently, we’ve started letting our oldest child who is 10 years old (and big for his age) ride in the front seat. Our logic was he’s as tall and weighs as much as an adult so why wouldn’t he be OK?

Apparently, our logic isn’t aligned with what the experts say on the matter.

As with so many parenting issues, the question of when to let your child ride in the front seat can be confusing. But I did discover the age most experts agree on and why.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all recommend that children stay in the back seat until age 13.

Dr. Susan Bolton, a pediatrician at Christie Clinic, says the size of the child doesn’t matter. It’s all about their age.

“All children under 13 years of age should ride in the back seat regardless of height and weight,” Bolton said.

Bolton says there are several reasons why. A major factor is younger children haven’t fully developed their bones yet, which increases the risk to vital organs in a motor vehicle crash.

“Although children under age 13 may weigh as much or be as tall as some adults, their hip bones are not fully developed,” Bolton said. “Even if the lap belt starts out in the right place, it can ride up onto the abdomen in children which increases the risk of injury to the abdominal organs in a motor vehicle crash.”

Bolton added the sternum (the breast bone) may not be fully developed until 11-17 years of age, which puts the child at increased risk of injury to the heart and lungs in a crash.

Also, the three items in the vehicle that are responsible for the most injuries during a motor vehicle crash are the windshield, the dashboard and the air bag. Bolton said children properly buckled up in the back seat are not likely to come into contact with these items.

Studies have shown that after the age of 13, the risk of injury to a child in a crash becomes equal to the risk in an adult.

The Illinois Secretary of State guidelines, which are based on AAP recommendations, also say children should be kept in the back seat until they are teenagers.

In fact, the state of Illinois guidelines go on to say 8-12-year-olds who aren’t big enough to fit properly in a seatbelt alone should sit in a booster seat. (The image below shows how a seatbelt should properly fit your child.)


The general consensus says seat belts don’t typically fit children properly until they are at least 57 inches tall (4 feet 9 inches) and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds.

That means small 7th graders should be in a booster seat? I imagine that would be a tough sell for some tweens.

I’m guessing it’s also going to be difficult for my son when I tell him he has to return to the back seat with his little brother and sister.

I’ll just blame it on the experts.

For more information about children’s seatbelt safety laws and guidelines, go to the Secretary of State’s website.

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How To: Adjust Your Mirrors to Avoid Blind Spots

For the past few years, various carmakers have been offering blind-spot detection systems for their cars’ side mirrors. Often complex, these systems employ cameras or radar to scan the adjoining lanes for vehicles that may have disappeared from view.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) published a paper in 1995 suggesting how outside mirrors could be adjusted to eliminate blind spots. The paper advocates adjusting the mirrors so far outward that the viewing angle of the side mirrors just overlaps that of the cabin’s rearview mirror. This can be disorienting for drivers used to seeing the flanks of their own car in the side mirrors. But when correctly positioned, the mirrors negate a car’s blind spots. This obviates the need to glance over your shoulder to safely change lanes as well as the need for an expensive blind-spot warning system.

The only problem is getting used to the SAE-recommended mirror positions. The cabin’s rearview mirror is used to keep an eye on what is coming up from behind, while the outside mirrors reflect the area outside the view of the inside rearview mirror.

Those who have switched to the SAE’s approach swear by it, however, some drivers can’t adjust to not using the outside mirrors to see directly behind the car and miss being able to see their own car in the side mirrors. To them we say, “Have fun filling out those accident reports.”


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The Safest & Deadliest States For Car Accidents

We’ve spilled a lot of ink discussing the most congested cities for drivers. But what about the most dangerous states for auto-related deaths?

Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute asked themselves the same question — and unlike us, they decided to find an answer.

To do that, they looked at traffic fatality stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for calendar year 2013 (the most recent year available). And just to make things interesting, Sivak and Schoettle did a little fancy math to see how highway fatalities compared to deaths as a whole.

Their findings were eye-opening.

For example, you might expect that states with high levels of traffic congestion would see a greater percentage of the population killed in auto accidents. But in fact, the opposite seems true. In some of the most crowded areas of the U.S. — namely, the American northeast and along the Pacific coast — traffic fatality rates are low. The places where folks are least likely to die in auto accidents include:

1. Washington, D.C., with an auto fatality rate of 3.1 deaths per 100,000 residents

2. Massachusetts (4.9 deaths)

3. & 4. New Jersey and New York (tied at 6.1 deaths)

5. Rhode Island (6.2 deaths)

6. Washington state (6.3 deaths)

7. Alaska (6.9 deaths)

You could counter by saying that because the populations in some of those areas are so huge, the ratios are unfairly skewed — and in cases like New York and New Jersey, you might have a point. But that surely doesn’t explain the presence of Alaska and Rhode Island.

That argument also doesn’t explain why many of those same spots also earned high marks when Sivak and Schoettle compared roadway fatalities to deaths from other causes:

1. Washington, D.C., where auto fatalities make up just 0.4 percent of deaths as a whole.

2. Massachusetts (0.6 percent)

3. Rhode Island (0.7 percent)

4. & 5. New Jersey and New York (tied at 0.8 percent)

Other states with low proportions of auto fatalities compared to overall deaths included Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin.

At the other end of Sivak and Schoettle’s scale, we find states in the Midwest and the South. Those with the highest fatality rates included:

1. Montana, with 22.6 deaths per 100,000 people

2. & 3. Mississippi and North Dakota (tied at 20.5 deaths)

To add insult to injury — literally — those same three states had some of the highest proportions of auto-related fatalities compared to deaths as a whole:

1. & 2. Montana and North Dakota, where road deaths account for 2.4 percent of all fatalities

3. Mississippi (2.0 percent)

The good news is, traffic fatalities have been on the decline for some time, and today, the number of roadway deaths pales in comparison to the throngs of people killed by heart disease, cancer, lung disease, stroke, and/or Alzheimer’s. Although 2015 may see something of a spike in auto-related fatalities, many analysts agree that the downward trend will continue over time. Once autonomous safety features and vehicle-to-vehicle communications become commonplace, rates will likely drop even further.

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Car Care with Kids

New drivers love their cars, but they typically don’t realize what it
takes to maintain them. The Car Care Council recommends having fun
teaching children about the importance of car care long before they can
drive so they know how routine maintenance impacts the safety and
dependability of their vehicle.

“Many children love learning how cars operate, however, they don’t
really understand the nuts and bolts of what it takes to properly
maintain a car,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.
“By taking the time to teach your children the basics of car care, they
will not only learn to appreciate the value of taking care of a car, but
they will be more informed and better prepared for the day they become a
car owner.”

There are many do-it-yourself service procedures that can be
performed by parents and children together. The Car Care Council
suggests starting with three easy and fun maintenance steps to give
children a general overview of car maintenance.

Check Lights and Wiper Blades – Explain to children the
importance of being able to see and be seen when driving. Show them how
to replace the wiper blades and work together to make sure all interior
and exterior lights work properly.

Wash the Car – Kids love to help wash the car. Ask them to
look for any dents, dings, scratches or cracked glass, as these
problems, when left unattended, can lead to more expensive repairs down
the line.

Check the Oil – Show children how to check the oil and explain
how periodic oil and filter changes help keep your car clean on the
inside of the engine. Also explain that other vehicle fluids, such as
windshield solvent, should be checked and refilled to keep the car
running properly.
To help understand and explain the importance of auto care, the Car
Care Council developed its popular Car Care Guide. Available in English
and Spanish, the 80-page guide can be ordered free-of-charge at

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car
Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of
regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of
the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit

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Seven Signs Your Brakes Need to be Inspected

The Car Care Council reminds motorists that routine brake inspections are essential to safe driving and maintaining your vehicle.

“When it comes to vehicle safety, the brake system is at the top of the list, so have your brakes checked by an auto service professional at least once a year,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Knowing the key warning signs that your brakes may need maintenance will go a long way toward keeping you and others safe on the road.”

The Car Care Council recommends that motorists watch for seven signs that their brakes need to be inspected:

1. Noise: screeching, grinding or clicking noises when applying the brakes.

2. Pulling: vehicle pulls to one side while braking.

3. Low Pedal:brake pedal nearly touches the floor before engaging.

4. Hard Pedal: must apply extreme pressure to the pedal before brakes engage.

5. Grabbing: brakes grab at the slightest touch to the pedal.

6. Vibration: brake pedal vibrates or pulses, even under normal braking conditions.

7. Light: brake light is illuminated on your vehicle’s dashboard.

Brakes are a normal wear item on any vehicle and they will eventually need to be replaced. Factors that can affect brake wear include driving habits, operating conditions, vehicle type and the quality of the brake lining material.

Using the Car Care Council’s free personalized schedule and email reminder service is a simple way to help you remember to have your brakes inspected and take better care of your vehicle. It is an easy-to-use resource designed to help you drive smart, save money and make informed decisions.

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How to Communicate for Better Automotive Service

Today’s cars, light trucks, and sport-utility vehicles are high-tech marvels with digital dashboards, oxygen sensors, electronic computers, unibody construction, and more. They run better, longer, and more efficiently than models of years past.

But when it comes to repairs, some things stay the same. Whatever type of repair facility you patronize–dealership, service station, independent garage, specialty shop, or a national franchise–good communication between the customer and the shop is vital.

The following tips should help you along the way:

Do your homework before taking your vehicle in for repairs or service.

– Read the owner’s manual to learn about the vehicle’s systems and components.

– Follow the recommended service schedules.

– Keep a log of all repairs and service.

When you think about it, you know your car better than anyone else. You drive it every day and know how it feels and sounds when everything is right. So don’t ignore its warning signals.

Use all of your senses to inspect your car frequently. Check for:

– Unusual sounds, odors, drips, leaks, smoke, warning lights, gauge readings.

– Changes in acceleration, engine performance, gas mileage, fluid levels.

– Worn tires, belts, hoses.

– Problems in handling, braking, steering, vibrations.

– Note when the problem occurs.

– Is it constant or periodic?

– When the vehicle is cold or after the engine has warmed up?

– At all speeds? Only under acceleration? During braking? When shifting?

– When did the problem first start?

Professionally run repair establishments have always recognized the importance of communications in automotive repairs.
Once you you are at the repair establishment, communicate your findings.

– Be prepared to describe the symptoms. (In larger shops you’ll probably speak with a service writer/service manager rather than with the technician directly.)

– Carry a written list of the symptoms that you can give to the technician or service manager.

– Resist the temptation to suggest a specific course of repair. Just as you would with your physician, tell where it hurts and how long it’s been that way, but let the technician diagnose and recommend a remedy.

Stay involved…Ask questions.

– Ask as many questions as you need. Do not be embarrassed to request lay definitions.

– Don’t rush the service writer or technician to make an on-the-spot diagnosis. Ask to be called and apprised of the problem, course of action, and costs before work begins.

– Before you leave, be sure you understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.

– Leave a telephone number where you can be called.

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Home for the Holidays: Is Your Car Up for the Journey?

Before you pack up the car to head home for the holidays, the Car Care Council reminds you to make sure your vehicle is ready for the journey. Conducting a thorough vehicle inspection will help you avoid the inconvenience and potential safety hazards of breaking down miles away from home.

“It’s easy to remember to get your family ready for the holiday festivities, but what about preparing the car that’s going to get you there?” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Having a pre-inspection performed on your car will give you peace of mind as you travel and help make your journey safer.”

Before leaving home, the Car Care Council recommends a check of the following, often overlooked, items: tires and tire pressure, brakes, hoses and belts, air filters, wipers, exterior and interior lighting, and fluid levels, including engine oil, windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.

“A pre-trip inspection provides the opportunity to have service repairs made at home by your own trusted technician who knows the vehicle, and helps reduce the chance of costly and dangerous trouble on the road,” said Rich While.

The Car Care Council also recommends that drivers keep important telephone numbers in their cell phone or glove box in case of a breakdown or travel emergency. Vehicles should have a roadside emergency kit that includes items such as a first aid kit, a tire-changing jack, a tire pressure gauge, jumper cables, a flashlight and a blanket. A copy of the recently-updated 80-page Car Care Guide should be kept in the glove box and can be ordered free of charge at

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a free copy of the council’s popular Car Care Guide or for more information, visit

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