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Hot cars, poorly installed car seats are top dangers for kids

Summer may be over, but kids can still die of heatstroke if left in cars alone. The first hot car death of 2020 involved a four-year-old boy who had snuck into the family's car unnoticed. It was only 78° F that day.

According to testing by Consumer Reports, a car can reach the potentially deadly temperature of 105° F in just an hour when the outside temperature is 61° F. It does not have to be high summer for a child to die of heatstroke. It is never safe to leave a child in a car unattended.

It's also unsafe to leave your car unlocked because kids can sneak in to play and then become trapped. Consumer Reports advises that, if a child goes missing, the first place to check is the pool, if you have one. The next place to check is the car, including the trunk.

Park. Look. Lock. NHTSA recommends that, whenever you park your car, visually check every seat to make sure there are no kids inside. Make it a habit that you do every time. Once you're sure there is no one inside, lock the car so no children enter later.

Is your child safety seat installed properly?

Most parents feel confident that their car seats are installed correctly, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that almost half of all car seats (46%) are installed improperly. Is yours?

Be familiar with the four types of child restraint systems and have a general idea of when they are appropriate:

  • Rear-facing car seat (infants through age 3)
  • Front-facing car seat (4-7 years)
  • Booster seat (8-12 years, if necessary)
  • Seat belt (in the back seat if your child exceeds the booster seat's size guidelines)

Keep your child in the back seat until at least age 12.

Choose your seat based on your child's age, height and weight. Don't try to "graduate" your child to the next seat too soon. Keep them in the more restrictive seat type as long as they still meet the height and weight guidelines.

Register your car seat with the manufacturer so that you'll be notified if the seat is recalled.

Carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions on installing the seat. If you are unsure about whether it is installed properly, get your installation checked by a qualified person. This can commonly be done at fire stations and police stations.

Use your car seat every time you drive.

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