Little switch on car doors can save your child's life, experts say

Child safety locks immobilize rear door handles on inside of cars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Do you know if your car has child safety locks?

Safe Kids Northeast Florida believes the little switches on the side of rear car doors can save a child's life.

Experts explained the importance of the safety measure one day after police said a 1-year-old boy suffered life-threatening injuries when he fell out of his mother's SUV and was hit by a pickup truck in Arlington. 

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, four children, between ages 1 and 4, were inside the SUV at the time of the accident Monday afternoon but were not in car seats, which is against Florida law.

Danielle Kessenger, a child passenger safety instructor with Safe Kids Northeast Florida, said the children should have been in a car seat with a five-point harness. 

Police said the SUV's left rear door opened and the 1-year-old boy fell out. But Kessenger said something as simple as a child safety lock could have prevented that.

"Those child safety locks really do help because they immobilize those back door handles," she said.

Martin Couch, general manager of sales at Ernie Palmer Toyota, said most cars have been equipped with child safety locks since the early 1980s. 

He said customers ask about them all the time, and demonstrated how they work.

"On both rear doors ... you just press the switch down and that will activate the child safety lock," Couch said. "It's activated inside. I can still open the vehicle from the outside so I can get in the vehicle, open it up. But pretend I'm a little kid. As I come in, now I can't open the vehicle. Only from the outside can a vehicle be opened. So anytime the child will actually come in and try to do this, the vehicle will not open and engage from the inside of the vehicle."

He also reminded parents about the window lock safety feature, saying children can get into dangerous situations with windows as well. 

VIEW: Safe Kids' Ultimate Car Seat Guide

If you're not sure whether your car has either of these safety features, check the owner's manual or call your dealership.

For more information on child safety in cars, including how to install car seats, visit Safe Kids Northeast Florida's website