Safety in the Car

Children love car rides. However, car rides pose potential dangers if children do not understand or comply with the safety requirements of being in a car. How can we ensure our children’s safety in the car? 

Sitting in the Car

Whether you have a newborn, an infant, a baby, a toddler, or a child with you in the car, it is always critical that they are secured in a car seat or booster seat, with their seat belt fastened at all times. 

 

Now this may be difficult for some children, especially those on the spectrum. Here are some strategies to teach and let your child get used to these crucial safety measures for car rides: 

 

1. Teach this right from the beginning: when a baby is born and going in the car, immediately and always, they should be in the car seat right from the very start. 

  • This becomes a rule right from the beginning and it is always easier to start right than to have to reteach it as they get older. 

 

2. Break down the skills naturally: 

  • If this rule is new to your child, you can start by practicing with shorter rides (e.g. 5-10 minutes rather than 5 hour drive) 

 

3. Reinforcement 

  • Have special toys in the car 
  • When your child is able to finish the car ride with a seat belt/in the designated car seat, reward him or her with a special treat!

 

*Important reminder: always stop the car in a safe place and turn off the engine before taking your child out of the car seat or unbuckling the seat belt!

 

One priority for children’s safety in car rides is to prevent children from being near active air bags at the front passenger seat-the impact of air bags when activated can be dangerous for children or maybe even fatal! 

 

Hence, to prevent any injury or unpleasant circumstances, all children below the age of 13 years should always be riding in the back seat, with their seat belts fastened

Locks

Have child locks on doors as well as window locks! Both are equally important to keep children safe and to keep from anything/anyone going into the car or going out of it.

 

It is the best practice for children with autism to be transported from one location to another whilst seated and secured in the back seat of the car with the Child Lock on, whether they are using a car seat, booster seat or no special seat at all.

 

Children on the autism spectrum can be unpredictable and in some cases, having child locks in the car prevents dangerous incidents where children open the car door and get out of the car when it is still moving.

Leaving your child in the car

NEVER, EVER leave your children alone in the car without any adult supervision, whether the engine is on or off.

 

No matter how quick you think it is to just run into a convenience store, or even if your child is asleep, it is never safe to leave children in the car alone. 

 

In addition, to ensure better safety in the car: 

 

  • Always ensure that when the car is stopped, the gear is turned into “Park” and the engine turned off.
  • Regularly check that there are no breakables, throwables or even edibles ( any object that little ones can just put into their mouth) within the child’s reach. 
  • Have shatterproof windows. 

Teaching Strategy: Wearing a Seatbelt

Possible skills needed:

  • Learning the rule: wear seatbelt when in car
  • Comply with the rule
  • Tolerate the sense of wearing seatbelt (especially those with sensitivity issues) 

 

Preparations:

  1. Social Story and/or Video Model
  2. Car Seat/Seatbelt
  3. Rule card: First seatbelt then drive/favourite location 

 

Assess your child’s tolerance level and break down accordingly. Your child may need further breaking down on certain steps, remember to follow your child’s pace!

Steps:

  1. Read the Social Story
  2. Show a Video Model of another child (older sibling/cousin/close friend) demonstrating wearing a seatbelt.
  3. Show them the First-Then board
  4. Say, “Put on seat belt” and begin practice. This instruction can be used at any part of the programme that involves the seatbelt touching your child’s body)
  5. Praise and reinforce your child for every success your child demonstrates! 

Your Turn

Download the Safety in the Car checklist from our website and check for any safety tip that you have yet put in place.

 

Next, assess your child’s ability to cope with wearing the seatbelt. Are they able to wear it at all? Or they do but only for short durations?

 

If this is a skill to be developed or strengthened, download the teaching materials from our website, Then begin teaching!

 

You can also download the Items List for teaching the skill of Wearing the Seatbelt here. 

References

1. Pitone, M. (2021). Keeping Kids Safe in Cars (for Parents) - Nemours KidsHealth. Kidshealth.org. Retrieved 3 January 2022, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/auto.html#:~:text=To%20protect%20kids%20from%20air,back%20as%20it%20will%20go
2. Kouri, S. (2020). Seat Belt Safety & Children with Autism - eSpecial Needs Blog. eSpecial Needs Blog. Retrieved 3 January 2022, from https://www.especialneeds.com/blog/seat-belt-buckle-guard/