So you’re in the market for a family car. Copious seating and lots of cupholders may be alluring, but they don’t mean a vehicle is as family-friendly as it should be. Even crash tests—by far one of the best ways we have to gauge overall safety—don’t cover everything a parent needs to know. For instance, will the vehicle easily accommodate car seats? Are there design features that could be hazardous to a curious toddler? Down to the day we roll the new car into the driveway, many of us parents still don’t know the answers to these crucial questions, largely because we don’t know what features to look for.
So what’s a car-shopping parent to do? Keep in mind that this is a wish list. Just because a car doesn’t have everything we’ve pointed out, it doesn’t mean you should skip it altogether. You have to weigh what features will matter most for your family and your lifestyle.
Navigating all the ins and outs of car seats is often easier said than done. Some parents, especially new parents, find it difficult to decide what kind of car seat to buy and how to install it properly.
Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conduct a wide array of crash tests. “Any car you’re considering should do well on all of these,”
At the end of toddlerhood, your child will outgrow her rear-facing infant seat or a convertible car seat used rear-facing. Will that rear vehicle seat be suitable for her belt-positioning booster seat? Will there be enough safe seating for younger siblings and the gaggle of playmates that will undoubtedly come along with your crew?
There should be a lap/shoulder safety belt and head restraints for every passenger. These features provide the best protection. In addition, booster seats can’t be used in a vehicle seat that has a lap-only belt.
Blind-spot warning: When another vehicle is detected in the lane beside your vehicle’s blind-spot, a light will illuminate on an exterior side mirror. Many systems also include an audible warning as well to warn the driver if they are making a move to get into the already occupied lane. The system may provide an additional warning if you use your turn signal when there is a car next to you in another lane.
Cover or net for cargo area:
“If you stop suddenly or are in a collision, anything stored in the cargo area of a wagon or SUV can come flying forward and injure whomever it slams into. A vertical net or horizontal cover will reduce the risk.
Uses strategically located proximity sensors on the front and rear bumpers that alert the driver via sound warnings to any obstacles that are too close to their vehicle.
In 2016, 59 children were killed when drivers backed over them because they didn’t see them. The number of such incidents has decreased in recent years, thanks in part to vehicles equipped with rear-view cameras—a feature that will be required on all vehicles with the 2018 model year.