Seat belt entanglement and trunk entrapment are two hidden dangers for children in vehicles.
A child within reach of a seat belt may become entangled if he or she pulls the seat belt all the way out and wraps the belt around his or her head, neck, or waist.
Most seat belts have a locking mechanism that is activated when the seat belt is pulled all the way out from the retractor. This feature is designed for car seat installation. In instances when the locking feature activates, the child may not be able to free him or herself. This can happen if you do not properly restrain your child, for example, if you let the child lie down or sleep on the vehicle seat instead of being properly restrained. Older children who are no longer in a car seat can become entangled by pulling a seat belt all the way out of the retractor or by playing with an unused seat belt.
• Do not let children play in or around cars.
• 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.
Seat belt entanglement can happen in the blink of an eye. Never leave your children alone in or around a vehicle for any reason.
Children are naturally curious and love to explore their surroundings. If you leave your kids unattended, in or near a vehicle, it may not be long before they are playing in it. Hide and seek can turn deadly if they get trapped in the trunk, where temperatures can rise very quickly – resulting in heatstroke or asphyxiation.
As of Sept. 1, 2001, automobile manufacturers are required to equip all new vehicle trunks with a “glow in the dark” trunk release inside the trunk compartment. Show your kids how to use the release in case of an emergency. If your car is older and does not have the “glow in the dark” trunk release, ask your automobile dealership about getting your vehicle retrofitted with a trunk release mechanism.
• Teach children that vehicle trunks are for cargo, not for playing.
• 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.
Many factors can contribute to trunk entrapment injury or death. Always supervise your child and never leave him or her alone in or around a vehicle for any reason. Younger children are more sensitive to heat than older children and adults and are at greater risk for heatstroke. High temperature, humidity, and poor ventilation create an extremely dangerous environment in a vehicle trunk. Trunk entrapment has similar risks to heatstroke: Even in cooler temperatures, your vehicle can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. An outside temperature in the mid-60s can cause a vehicle’s inside temperature to rise above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The inside temperature of your car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes.
Maggie Rauser is the Safe Kids coordinator for the Carroll County Health Department.