Six Common Dangers for Children In and Around Cars & How to Prevent Injury

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 27-Mar-2015

Picture of Salvatore J. Zambri

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and partner

As parents, we make every effort to keep our children safe in the car, ranging from our choice of family vehicle to car seat selection to even having an expert check the car seat installation. Perhaps overlooked in our efforts are even more dangers that we should note. has identified six common dangers that even the most careful parents can overlook and some valuable prevention tips. In light of the importance of this advice, we have reproduced the complete listing of those dangers and the recommendations from in their entirety.

Many children are are killed or seriously injured in backover incidents.

Prevention Tips:

  • Teach children not to play in or around cars.
  • Supervise children carefully when in and around vehicles.
  • Always walk around your vehicle and check the area around it before backing up.
  • Be aware of small children-the smaller a child, the more likely it is you will not see them.
  • Teach children to move away from a vehicle when a driver gets in it or if the car is started.
  • Have children in the area stand to the side of the driveway or sidewalk so you can see them as you are backing out of a driveway or parking space.
  • Make sure to look behind you while backing up slowly in case a child dashes behind your vehicle unexpectedly.
  • Roll down your windows while backing out of your driveway or parking space so that you’ll be able to hear what is happening outside of your vehicle.
  • Teach your children to keep their toys and bikes out of the driveway.
  • Because kids can move unpredictably, you should actively check your mirrors while backing up.
  • Many cars are equipped with detection devices that provide rearview video or warning sounds, but they cannot completely take the place of actively walking around your car to make sure children are safely out of the way. Do not rely solely on these devices to detect what is behind your vehicle.

Seat belt entanglement occurs if a child is not properly restrained in the car or is able to reach an unused seat belt.

Prevention Tips:

  • Do not let children play in or around cars.
  • Never leave a child unattended in or around a vehicle.
  • Always ensure children are properly restrained.
  • Teach children that seat belts are not toys.
  • Be aware that some seat belts have a retractor that locks if pulled all the way out.
  • If a child has an unused seat belt within reach:
    • Buckle unused seat belts. Pull the seat belt out all the way to the end without yanking. Then, feed the excess webbing back into the retractor.
    • If a child seat is installed with LATCH, consider completing the steps above before you install the child seat. Always consult your child seat and vehicle owner’s manual for installation instructions.

Heatstroke is now one of the leading cases of death among children.

Prevention Tips:

  • Never Leave a Child Alone in a Car
    • It's never OK to leave a child alone in a car, even for a few minutes, and even if the car is on.
    • Opening windows will not prevent heatstroke.
    • Heatstroke happens even on cloudy days and in outside temperatures below 70 degrees.
    • Don't let kids play in an unattended vehicle.
  • Look Before You Lock
    • Always check the back seats of your vehicle before your lock it and walk away.
    • Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child's car seat when it's empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.
    • If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has been altered, always check that your child arrived safely.

    Take Action if You See a Child Alone in a Car

    • Don't wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return.
    • Don't worry about getting involved in someone else's business-protecting children is everyone's business.
    • “Good Samaritan” laws offer legal protection for those who offer assistance in an emergency.
    • If the Child Is Not Responsive or Is in Distress, Immediately:
      • Call 911.
      • Get the child out of the car.
      • Spray the child with cool water (not in an ice bath).
    • If the Child Is Responsive:
      • Stay with the child until help arrives.
      • Have someone else search for the driver or ask the facility to page them.

    Hide and seek can become a deadly game of trunk entrapment, heatstroke or asphyxiation if children are left unattended around a car.

    Prevention Tips:

    • Teach children that vehicle trunks are for cargo, not for playing.
    • Always supervise your children carefully when in and around vehicles.
    • Check the trunk right away if your child is missing.
    • Lock your car doors and trunk and be sure keys and remote entry devices are out of sight and reach of your kids.
    • Keep the rear fold-down seats closed/locked to keep your children from climbing into the trunk from inside your car.

    Power windows can cause serious injuries or strangulation of children.

    Prevention Tips:

    • Never leave your children alone in a vehicle for any reason.
    • Teach your children not to play with window switches.
    • Teach your children not to stand on passenger door arm rests.
    • Properly restrain your children in car seats or seat belts to prevent them from accidentally activating power windows and sunroofs.
    • Look and make sure your kids’ hands, feet, and head, are clear of windows before raising the windows.
    • Never leave the key in the ignition or in the “on” or “accessory” position when you walk away from your car.
    • If available, activate the power window lock switch so that your children cannot play with the windows.

    If you leave a child alone in a motor vehicle, whether the engine running or not, it doesn’t take long for a child to unintentionally set your car in motion.

    Prevention Tips:

    • Teach children not to play in or around cars.
    • Supervise children carefully when in and around vehicles.
    • Keep vehicle locked when unattended.
    • Never leave keys in the car.
    • Engage your emergency brake every time you park.
    • Verify whether or not your vehicle has a Brake Transmission Safety Interlock (BTSI) by reading the owner’s manual.

    Many children are injured every year in preventable accidents around vehicles. If you have questions about this issue or others concerning the safety of your children, please feel free to contact me.

    About the author:

    Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. The association recently named him "Trial Lawyer of the Year".  Super Lawyers recently named him among the "Top Ten" lawyers in the Metro Area (out of more than 80,000 attorneys). He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a "Big Gun" and among the "top 100″ lawyers in the entire metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as "one of Washington's best-most honest and effective lawyers" who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners.  His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA.  Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of "The Best Lawyers in America" by Best Lawyers (2014 edition) and has been repeatedly named a "Super Lawyer" by Super Lawyer magazine (2014) - national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.

    If you have any questions about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at or call him at 202-822-1899.





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