In & Around Vehicles

There are many potential dangers involving motor vehicles.  Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death to children 2 to 14 and the leading cause of injury related death for children under the age of 2.  It is important for parents and caregivers to properly restrain children when riding in vehicles and it is equally important to keep children safe around vehicles by making sure all unoccupied vehicles are locked and ensuring no children are left in a vehicle unattended. Oftentimes parents and caregivers are unaware of the dangers associated with certain motor vehicle situations.  Avoid placing a child in  high risk situations including:

  • Improperly using a child restraint or seat belt, or not using one at all
  • Permitting children to ride in front of passenger seat airbags
  • Allowing children to ride in the cargo areas of pickup trucks
  • Leaving  unoccupied vehicles unlocked near playing children
  • Leaving children unattended in a hot/cold vehicle


Child Passenger Safety

In 2010, 1,210 children age 14 and were killed and 171,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes in the United States. Forty-one percent of the fatally injured children were unrestrained.

Twenty eight percent of the fatally injured children age 4 and younger were unrestrained. Research has found that properly used child restraints reduce fatal injuries in passenger cars by 71% for children less than one year old and by 54% for children age 1-4.


Child restraints are extremely effective but many parents struggle with choosing an appropriate restraint and using it correctly.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Safe Kids USA have recommendations for keeping your family safe in the car.  The safest place for children when riding in vehicles is properly restrained in an age and size appropriate restraint in the rear seat, away from the airbag.


North Carolina has a large network of Permanent Checking Stations located throughout the state where parents and caregivers can get assistance with the installation of their car seats in their vehicle. To find a Permanent Checking Station in your area or for more information on North Carolina’s Occupant Restraint laws, please visit


In & Around Vehicle Safety

Children injured in back-over incidents were 1 to 4 years old, 55 percent were males.  Most back overs occurred either in home driveways or parking lots.  This is why it is important to properly secure your child prior to starting the vehicle and making sure a child is supervised when playing in driveways or near road ways.  As a driver, when pulling into or out of parking spaces, it is important to look behind and side to side before moving the vehicle.


Riding in Cargo Areas of Trucks

Pickup trucks may not be as safe as other vehicles for small children.  Limited space often leads to parents letting their children ride in the cargo area.  However, children riding in cargo areas have a 10 times greater risk of dying according to the US Department of Transportation.  Ejection (being thrown out) from the cargo area is the main cause of injury and death for cargo passengers.  Covered cargo areas can also be unsafe due to a child’s possible exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning from exhaust fumes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that children never be allowed to ride or play in cargo areas of vehicles.


Trunk Entrapments

A child’s nature is to explore their surroundings. Unfortunately, the exploration can place a child in danger.  Unintentional trunk entrapment, when children lock themselves in a trunk, can be fatal.  Between 35 and 40 percent of children ages 14 and under who accidentally lock themselves in a trunk will die due to hyperthermia (heat stroke) and/or asphyxiation (suffocation).

To prevent unintentional trunk entrapment:

  • Teach your children not to play in and around vehicles.
  • Always lock your vehicle and keep keys away from children.
  • Carefully watch young children when they are around vehicles.
  • Keep rear fold-down seats closed inside the vehicle.
  • Certain automobile manufactures now include escape releases or sensor systems in trunks, however small children may not know how to operate these.


Leaving Children Unattended in Vehicles

As tempting as it may be, it is NEVER okay to leave a child unattended inside a vehicle, “even for a minute.” Heat build-up inside a vehicle can quickly become fatal to children.  The inside of a car acts like a greenhouse, a place no child should be alone.  Because children’s bodies heat up by as much as five times faster than adults, this makes them much more susceptible to heat stroke.  When left unattended, children may be able to start the vehicle or put the vehicle in neutral.

Prevention Tips:

  • Lock cars and trucks – Thirty percent of the recorded heat stroke deaths in the U.S. occur because a child was playing in an unattended vehicle.
  • Create Reminders – Leave a personal item in the back seat, such as a cell phone, purse, or work bag


Sources: UNC Department of Public Safety, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Boston Children’s Hospital, Safe Kids Cabarrus County NC, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, American Academy of Pediatrics, Safe Kids USA,