Buying A Safer Car
SAFETY IS ONE of the most important considerations when buying a family vehicle. Manufacturers offer many safety features you should look for to transport children safely. These features cannot, however, replace the need to monitor children when they are in and around motor vehicles or the importance of seeing that children are safely buckled up.
In fact, the most important action a parent or caregiver can do to promote occupant protection for children is to secure all children up to age 13 in an age and weight appropriate child restraint or safety belt - in the vehicle's rear seat. Statistics show that children are much less likely to be seriously injured in a crash if they are properly restrained in the back seat.
The safety features listed here will help you secure your children safely in your vehicle and reduce their risk of incurring crash-related injuries. Moreover, these features can help protect children from other vehicle-related dangers, such as those posed by certain types of power window switches.
Manual Air Bag On-Off Switch
Vehicles with no rear seat, or a rear seat that is not appropriate for a child safety seat, may have a switch that lets the driver control the front-seat passenger air bag. The switch has a warning light that must be clearly visible to all front-seat passengers to let them know when the air bag has been turned off.
A rear-facing child safety seat should NEVER be placed in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with an active passenger air bag. Infants and children can be seriously injured - or even killed - if the air bag inflates.
There are circumstances where some people should not be exposed to an inflating air bag. Some of these situations involve child passengers who may be put at risk if an air bag inflates.
If you can certify that you or someone else who uses your vehicle would be at risk if the air bag inflates, you can have an ON-OFF switch installed in your vehicle. Please review the information below on air bag ON-OFF switches to decide whether your driving situation fits one or more risk profiles necessary to have an ON-OFF switch installed by a dealer or repair facility.
Rear Center-Seat Lap and Shoulder Belts
All rear center seats must be equipped with at least a lap belt. As an added feature, some manufacturers include lap and shoulder belts in rear center seats. This benefits older children and children in booster seats who often ride in the rear center position. A Federal ruling recently mandated that all new passenger vehicles must be equipped with rear center-seat lap/shoulder safety belts by 2008.
Adjustable Upper Belts (Rear)
Because safety belts must fit people of various sizes, including older children, some manufacturers offer an adjustable upper belt that lets you change the position of the shoulder strap to accommodate a person's size. This feature allows adjustment and may improve the shoulder belt fit for the passenger. Check the manufacturer's instructions to correctly adjust the safety belts in your vehicle.
Push-Down, Pull-Up Window Switches
With a conventional rocker or toggle type window switch, a child can accidentally lean or kneel on the switch and cause the window to close, trapping hands, arms or other body parts in the power window. However, Push-Down, Pull-Up Switches help eliminate this safety risk by making it virtually impossible to accidentally close power windows. A Federal rule mandates that safer switches be installed in all cars, vans, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles made for sale in the United States on or after October 1, 2008.
Anti-Pinch/Auto Reversal Windows
Automatic reversal windows, sometimes called "pinch protection," "anti-entrapment," or "bounceback" windows are designed to stop closing and reverse direction if they sense anything, such as a child's hands, arms or head, in the way. There are several different types of systems available. Check with your dealer about the specific operation of anti-pinch/auto reversal windows.
Built-In Child Safety Seats
Some manufacturers offer built-in child safety seats that are designed to restrain children at least 1 year old and over 20 pounds. Specific weight and height requirements may vary; check with the vehicle manufacturer for details. Since the introduction of the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system, which was designed to make child safety seats easier to install, only a very small percentage of manufacturers offer this feature. As a result, you will not find this safety feature listed in the "Child Safety Features By Model - 2006" charts included in this booklet. Check with your dealer or manufacturer for more information about vehicle models that include built-in child safety seats.
Rear-Seat Active Head Restraints
The newest type of head restraint is an active head restraint, which comes in a number of designs for the front and back seats of vehicles. Preliminary research has shown that active head restraints may help reduce whiplash.
Frontal Air Bags
Frontal air bags deploy forcefully and rapidly, posing a danger for children 12 and younger. Therefore, NHTSA recommends all children 12 and under should always ride in the rear seat, where it's safest for them. Vehicles with no rear seat, or a rear seat that is not appropriate for a child safety seat, may have a switch that lets the driver control the frontseat passenger air bag.
Side-Impact Air Bags
Side-impact air bag (SAB) technology has advanced rapidly over recent years and various types of SABs have emerged. SABs offer additional protection to two principal areas of the body - the head and the chest - during side-impact crashes. Head-protecting curtain or tubular SABs deploy overhead and downward from the roof rail. Doormounted or seat-mounted SABs, also called torso bags, are designed to offer protection to the chest. A combination SAB, or "combo bag," deploys from the seatback and offers protection to both the chest and head.
Interior Trunk Release
Almost all passenger cars with trunks manufactured after September 1, 2001, are required to be equipped with interior trunk releases. This safety feature is intended to help all individuals - and especially children - who may become locked in the trunk of a vehicle to escape. Check with your automobile dealer for specific information on the type of trunk release system offered and which vehicle manufacturers offer retrofit kits for older cars. Ensure that your children know where the interior trunk release is located and how to use it.
Child Safety Seats And Booster Seats
If you have children and are shopping for a family car, you'll want to check to see that your child safety seat and booster seat is compatible with the vehicle. After all, vehicles and seat styles are extensive. Review the following compatibility information, ease-of-use ratings, and child safety and booster seat usage chart to make sure your new vehicle and safety seat will work together properly to protect your child in the event of a crash.
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