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We believe that the safety of our children is of the upmost importance to you and to our community. We have compiled the following suggestions to help keep you and your children safe in the home, in automobiles and in the community.

Car Seats

Four out of five car seats are installed incorrectly. Yes, it's true - is your child's car seat installed correctly?

Several local organizations, such as the California Highway Patrol (415.924.1100), provide assistance in the installation of child car seats. They will instruct you in ensuring that the seats are installed properly and that the child is positioned correctly in the seat.  And remember, children learn by example and the most powerful lesson you can provide your child is for you to ALWAYS use YOUR seat belt.

General Tips on Child Car Seat Safety:

My child is under age one:

  • Always rides in the back seat and never in front of an air bag.
  • Always rides in a car safety seat for infants.
  • Always faces the back of the car in the child safety seat.
  • The child's safety seat is buckled in tight and doesn't move more than one inch.
  • Always is securely strapped in and only one finger can fit under a harness strap.
  • The retainer clip is at arm-pit level (on the bony not soft part of upper chest).

My child is over age one AND between 20 and 40 pounds:

  • Always rides in the back seat and never in front of an air bag.
  • Always rides in a child safety seat that is weight/height appropriate and the harness system is used.
  • Always is securely strapped in and only one finger can fit under a harness strap. 
  • The child safety seat is buckled tight and doesn't move more than one inch.
  • The retainer clip is at arm-pit level (on the bony not soft part of upper chest).

My child is under age 8 AND over 40 pounds:

  • Always rides in the back seat and never in front of an air bag.
  • Always rides in a booster seat. Both the lap and shoulder belts must be used whether you have a backless booster or a high-back booster.
  • The seat belt is tight, comfortable and lies flat on the child.
  • The lower seat belt is on the child's hips, not on the stomach.
  • The upper seat belt is on the child's shoulder, not on the neck.

My child is between the ages of 8 - 12 AND over 60 pounds:

  • Always rides in the back seat and never in front of an air bag.
  • Always uses a seat belt (both lap and shoulder belts) and the belt is tight, comfortable and lies flat on the child.

Although current California law states that children must be in safety/booster seats until the age of six or 60 pounds, the American Pediatric Association recommends children remain in safety/boosters seats until the age of eight or 80 pounds. The reason is that children cannot safely use a car's seat belt system until they reach the height of approximately 4'9", which is usually attained around the age of eight.

Parents are encouraged to use the following test to determine whether their child is ready for an adult belt:

  • Does the child sit with hips all the way back against the auto seat? 
  • Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
  • Is the lap belt on the top part of the thighs?
  • Is the shoulder belt centered on the shoulder and chest?
  • Can the child stay seated in this position for the duration of the trip?
  • For information about proper use of child safety seats, parents can visit the following Web sites:

    National Safe Kids Campaign
    California Legislative Information
    California Office of Traffic Safety
    SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A
    AAA "Otto the Auto"
    California Highway Patrol
    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 

    SUV Blind Spots Endanger Children

    We received the below information from Kids and Cars.org:

    SUV blind spotsAccidents involving small children are on the rise, and statistics show it is because there are larger vehicles on the road, such as SUVs. That is because the driver can't see the child.

    An advocacy group, Kids and Cars, tracks all non-traffic accidents. The group reports that more than 100 children were killed in 2005 after being backed over. Thirty-three others died after being hit by the front of a large vehicle.

    The founder, Janette Fennel, says most of those deaths were caused by a phenomenon dubbed "The Bye-Bye Syndrome." It was dubbed that because the parent is unaware their child followed them out to the vehicle.

    What can you do to protect the children around you?

    A CarMax representative says some manufacturers of large vehicles have added sensors embedded in the rear bumper to aid drivers.

    The sensors are supposed to pick up an object, whether it is a child or a bicycle that is in obstruction to the eye.

    Fennel says tools like the sensors are helpful, but adults need to take the lead.

    "Before you get into the vehicle walk around to make sure no one is in harms way, and make sure children are being properly supervised by another adult."
  • See a short video about this issue.

Unattended Children

To address the safety problems caused by leaving children alone in cars, California passed SB 255 in October 13, 2001. The bill was authored by Senator Jackie Speier and is commonly known as Kaitlyn's Law. The year before the law was passed, there were 60 California fatalities involving unattended children in vehicles.  Since the law has passed there have been 626 child fatalities. 

The law states that "leaving young children unattended in motor vehicles has caused serious health and safety harm to children and is an unacceptable public health and safety hazard." The dangers include possible child access to ignition, brakes, trunk, clutch and gear shift lever; extreme cold or heat in the vehicle; or child abduction. This law applies to children 6 years or younger left unattended without the supervision of a person who is 12 years of age or older, and where there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child's health or safety, or when the vehicle's engine is running or the vehicle's keys are in the ignition. The fine for this infraction of the Vehicle Code (VC 15620) is $100.

Kids 'n Cars is a nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to pursue public awareness of unattended children in vehicles. Their web site is an excellent source for educational materials, actual cases, and information as to how you can become involved in this important safety issue.

If you would like to report an unattended child in a vehicle incident, please the Mill Valley Police Department at 389-4100 and a warning letter will be sent to the driver of the vehicle. If the unattended child seems in imminent danger, please call 911. Forms for reporting incidents are available at City Hall, Edna Maguire and Old Mill elementary schools, and is available to download. The form can be submitted to the Police Department by fax, phone, mail or in person.

Child Internet Safety

"It is not an exaggeration to say that we are in the midst of an epidemic of sexual abuse and exploitation of our children," stated Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on May 17th, 2006, when asked about sexual predators on the Internet.

The following are FBI Facts and Figures:

  • child internet safety20% of children online have been sexually solicited and 25% of those were between the ages of 10 - 13
  • 55% of online teens have visited a chat room
  • 60% of teens have received an instant message or email from a stranger and 50% responded
  • 50% of teens met face-to-face with a stranger met on the Internet and didn't tell their parents of the meeting
  • 25% of online teens who use instant messaging, email, or chat rooms have pretended to be a different person
  • 70% of sexual solicitations occurred on the child's home computer

Every parent needs to know what their child is doing online; the dangers of the Internet; and, how to protect your family from Internet predators. For more information, please see our Child Internet Safety Document.

Child Abduction

Approach the subject of safety in a non-threatening way. It is important that you don't make your child fearful of dangerous situations or people, but cautious and able to recognize when something is not right.

Encourage your child to trust his or her intuition, and be able to talk to you when something is bothering them. They should know not to keep secrets from you. Open communication is very important. Listen to your child.

Let your child know that their body belongs to them. No one has the right to touch them inappropriately. If someone is touching them or making them feel uncomfortable in any way, they should let you know immediately, even if it is a family member. Often, children are victims of those they know.

Inform your child of the rules pertaining to strangers. Namely, that a stranger looks just like any other person, not like a monster or a creature. Simply put, a stranger is someone that your child does not know.

Strangers use different ways to lure a child but the most common lures are: pretending to look for a lost pet; having candy or money for the child if they go to their car with them; asking for directions or help; and, telling the child that they'll hurt family members if they don't comply. Let your child know that adults DO NOT ask children for help nor do they threaten them.

Share an easily remembered secret code word with your child, family and close friends that act as caretakers. Tell your child that if anyone approaches them and says that they are a family friend and need to take them somewhere, your child must ask for the code word. If the person really is a friend, they will know it. If they don't know the code word, your child should not go with them.

Never label your child's clothing, backpack, or other personal items with their name. An abductor could use this information to try to gain trust with your child.

Give your child instructions on what to do if they are separated from you in a mall, a supermarket, or other public place. Tell them to go to a checkout counter, information desk, or to approach a security officer and let them know that they are lost and looking for their parent(s).

Know where your child is at all times, and keep a list of their friends' names, addresses, and phone numbers.

Keep a record of your child's personal and medical information on hand in case of an emergency. Make sure they are fingerprinted and that you have a recent photo. Remember to update this record every 6-12 months based on your child's growth. If you would like a Child ID kit, please contact Community Services Officer Sheryl Patton at 389-4100, extension 124, or email her at spatton@cityofmillvalley.org.

Try not to panic if your child is missing. First, check everywhere in the house, then, check with the neighbors and your child's friends. If you still cannot locate them, immediately call the police. THERE IS NO WAITING PERIOD REQUIRED TO REPORT A MISSING CHILD TO THE POLICE.

For more information, please access the following Web sites: 
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
California Attorney General's Office
Polly Klaas Foundation 

Choosing Quality Child Care

Important Questions to Ask...
Because the way children are treated in their earliest years of life by important adults shape their future successes or failures, it is crucial that all caregivers provide a healthy setting that encourages appropriate emotional, social and intellectual growth.

Parents should observe caregivers interacting with their child before making decisions. Some questions for parents to ask in determining the caregiver's or program's ability to understand babies and toddlers and support healthy development, include:

  • What training does the staff have in infant/toddler development?
  • Does the caregiver use straightforward, simple words to talk with my child?
  • Are activities and schedules explained to my child?
  • Are toys and materials well organized so my child can choose what interests him/her? 
  • Is this caregiver able to accommodate the special needs of my child?
  • Does the environment accommodate the special needs of my child?
  • Does this caregiver respect the language, culture and values of my family? 
  • Do the caregiver and I agree on discipline? Weaning? Toileting? Feeding?
  • Can this person handle conflicts without losing patience, shaming a child or frequently displaying anger?
  • Does the caregiver enjoy children?
  • Am I welcome to drop in at any time?
  • Will my child feel good about coming here?
  • Is the environment sanitary and safe?
  • Is the place appealing with comfortable lighting and an acceptable noise level?
  • Is the program licensed per the state or local government?
  • Is the child care program accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children or theNational Association of Family Child Care?
  • Are the caregivers certified by the Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition with a Child Development Associates degree credential for infant/toddler caregivers or an equivalent credential that addresses comparable competencies (such as an associates or bachelors degree)?
  • Is there a primary caregiver for my child?
  • Are the ratios and group size appropriate for my child's age?

How do you find good care?
Your community may have a child care resource and referral agency that can provide with a list of licensed child care facilities. There is a national hotline Child Care Aware (800-424-2246) that can direct you to your local child resource and referral agency. Accrediting organizations are an important of information about caregivers and early childhood programs that have standards beyond those required by licensing. You may wish to contact the National Association for Family Child Care (accredits family caregivers) at 800-359-3817, the National Association for Education of Young Children (accredits early childhood programs) at 800-424-2460, or the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care at 800-598-KIDS.

Of course, you still have to visit and judge for yourself how a caregiver or program meets the needs of your child and family. Recommendations of other parents, friends and co-workers are often helpful.

Teach Your Children to Protect Themselves

Preschoolers
A preschooler should always be under the supervision and protection of a responsible adult. The preschooler should know:

  • Full name, address (including city and state), and phone number (including area code).
  • How to make a phone call, including how to dial 911.
  • What private parts are and an easy way to explain is places covered by a bathing suit. A child needs to be able to tell the difference between an "okay" touch and a "not okay" touch.
  • Low risk adults to approach when lost or afraid, such as a uniformed police officer, a store cashier or a woman with children.
  • Always ask a parent's or caregiver's permission before accepting candy or gifts, or going somewhere with anyone.
  • Understand that it's the right thing to do to tell a parent or trusted adult if anyone hurts them or asks them to keep a secret.

Six to Ten Years Old
As children get older they want more freedom and responsibility. Grant privileges only when you are confident your child is ready. Don't let your child get into a situation he/she isn't ready to handle. Keep reviewing the rules. Use "what if" scenarios to check if your child knows what to do in various situations. The older child should know:

  • Always use the Buddy System and never go places alone. Predators usually focus on loners.
  • Ask first! Always let someone know where they are going.
  • Never get into a car or go with someone unless a parent or caretaker has given permission.
  • It's okay to be suspicious of adults who seem too friendly or ask for help. Adults do not ask for help (directions or to find a lost pet) from children.
  • Tell a parent or trusted adult if anyone offers gifts, money, to take their picture, touches them in a "private" place or asks them to keep a secret.
  • Have and remember a family password. Don't go with anyone that doesn't know the password.
  • If home alone when answering the phone, never say that a parent isn't there. Don't open the door to strangers.
  • If threatened by someone, loudly yell "no&" or "you are not my father/mother" to attract attention.
  • Children need to learn to trust their instincts. If a situation doesn't feel right, yell, get away and find help.

 

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Last updated: 2/23/2012 6:41:04 AM