What do you look at when buying a new car?
If you are like most people, price and style likely are major factors you consider when choosing which new car to buy. If you have kids, you might also look for a car with a DVD player and the ability to use a Play Station.
But what about car safety? Many people assume that all cars are created equal when it comes to safety, but some are more ‘kid safe’ than others. If you have kids or have a baby on the way and are buying a new car, you should put a little thought into how safe your family is going to be in that new car, including whether or not it has the latest new car safety innovations.
Important things to consider when buying a new car for your family include:
1) Does the car have LATCH, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, a new system that makes it easier to correctly install a car seat?
New cars (except some convertibles) have LATCH as a standard feature, so you only have to worry about a car not having LATCH if you are buying a used car built before September 2002.
Since car seats can be hard to install and many parents do install and use their child’s car seat incorrectly, having LATCH is an important feature of a kid safe car.
2) Is there room for everyone in the car?
Not every family needs an SUV, but if you have 3 or more small children (or are planning to have a large family) who need to be in car seats, you might not have enough room to secure them all safely in a small car. Keep in mind that children shouldn’t ride in the front seat until they are at least 12 years old, most younger children should ride in a car seat and then a booster seat until they are over 8 years old, and many small cars do not easily fit 3 car seats in the back seat.
And even if everyone fits, does everything you need, such as strollers, groceries, backpacks, fit too without overloading the car?
3) Does your car seat fit correctly?
Although you would think that any car seat should fit well in any car, that is often not the case. To make sure you can easily and correctly install your car seat in your new car, it can be very helpful to take the car seat with you when you go shopping for a car and test whether or not it fits.
You can avoid the issue all together by looking for a car with an integrated booster seat or built-in car seat.
4) Backup Aids and Blind Spots
As the issue of backover injuries and deaths gets more attention, it is clear that most larger vehicles need some extra safety aid to make it safer to back out of your driveway. Fortunately, many new cars offer rear view cameras and screens inside the car so that you can notice a child in your rear blind spot before running them over. Alternatively, although usually considered not as good as a camera, a backup sensor system can help alert you to a child or other object behind your car.
5) Does the car have the latest safety features?
For a kid safe car, make sure the car you are considering buying has the following safety features as a standard or optional (and have it installed) feature:
- override window controls (window lock).
- adjustable rear shoulder seat belts, which can help make sure the seat belts fit older children correctly once they outgrow a booster seat.
- a rear center lap and shoulder seat belt.
- safer power window switches, which would ideally have an anti-entrapment safety feature that automatically reverses a closing window if it hits something, but should at least include ‘push (window down) – pull (window up)’ type switches, instead of rocker switches that are easier to accidentally activate.
- electronic stability control, which can prevent sliding and skidding and might also be called ESC, StabiliTrak, AdvanceTrac, or Vehicle Skid Control, depending on the car manufacturer.
- a trunk release mechanism to allow kids to escape if they get inside the trunk and prevent trunk entrapment.
- antilock brakes (ABS), which can keep your brakes from locking up and help you stop in difficult situations, like on wet and slippery roads.
- child safety locks to prevent kids from opening the doors on their own from inside the car.
6) Air Bags
Although air bags are known to save lives, they can harm younger children who are not properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat. To keep your kids safe from air bags, have them sit in the back seat until they are at least 12 years old, restrain them in a car seat or booster seat until regular seat belts fit correctly, and don’t let them rest their head against side air bags.
If you must put a child in the front seat, look for a car that has an air bag occupant sensor system, which can sense if a child is in the seat and so not deploy in a crash, and/or an air bag on/off switch.
7) Other Safety Issues
In addition to the above safety features, before buying a new family car, you might want to review the car’s:
5-Star Safety Ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which now includes frontal crash, side crash, and roll over ratings, in addition to whether or not the car has recommended advanced technology safety features, and any safety issues
Crash Test Results from The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.