Overview of Toddler Safety

Toddlers are curious and eager to learn and explore. Unlike infants, most toddlers are able to walk, climb, open cabinets, remove caps, and maneuver themselves in ways adults cannot even imagine. Appropriate safety precautions are critical and adults must be vigilant to watch a toddler's behavior and note any new abilities that increase the risk for danger.

Car Safety for Toddlers

Toddler Car Safety Image- Masterfile

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), proper use of child safety seats in passenger cars reduces the risk for death in toddlers by about 54 percent. However, safety seats are only effective when they are appropriate for the child's size, fit the car properly, and are installed correctly. Parents and caregivers should make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for using car seats.

Child safety seats should be installed in the back seat of the car, preferably in the middle, away from potential impact and so that the door locks and window buttons are out of the toddler's reach—facing backward until the child is at least 2 years of age and has reached the upper weight limit for the seat. Children under the age of 12 should never sit in the front seat of the car. Once the car seat is installed, tugging, even with strong force, should not cause the seat to move.

Toddlers should never be removed from a safety seat, nor should they be held on an adult's lap when the car is moving. An adult's arms are not strong enough to protect a child in a collision. Cars should have childproof locks on the doors and windows and toddlers should never be allowed to play in the car when it is parked. Also, children should never be left alone in a car, even for a minute. In some cases, vehicles have been stolen with children still strapped into their car seats. Also, the temperature in a car can soar, causing hyperthermia and death in a matter of minutes on hot days.

Drivers must take precautions as well. Adults should never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs or when they are overtired, excessively upset, or distracted. They should observe the posted speed limit, slow down in bad weather, leave enough room between cars, and avoid reckless drivers. While children should be taught never to play near cars, drivers must watch for children outside at all times.

Some child safety seats can be used for airplane travel as well. These seats are specified by the manufacturer's instructions. Some airlines allow an adult to hold a child under the age of 2 on his or her lap; however, the Federal Aviation Administration recommends that all children be safely restrained in their own seat. It is best to buy a ticket specifically for the child; some airlines provide discounts for children younger than age 2.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015