Many families will be hitting the highway for the holidays, so now’s the time to plan for a safe and successful trip.
“While you want to ensure your children are warm, they shouldn’t be wearing winter coats or snowsuits underneath the harness of a car seat,” said Becky Spain, Mercy Injury Prevention and Safe Kids Springfield coordinator. “The fluffy padding makes it difficult to get the harness tight enough. The force of a crash could actually cause your child to slip through the straps.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics also has this advice:
- Get an early start, so you don’t overlook safety or drive too fast.
- Store the carrier portion of infant seats inside the house. Keeping the seat at room temperature will reduce the loss of the child's body heat in the car.
- Dress your child in thin layers. Start with close-fitting layers on the bottom, like tights, leggings, and long-sleeved bodysuits. Then add pants and a warmer top, like a sweater or thermal-knit shirt. Your child can wear a thin fleece jacket over the top. As a general rule of thumb, infants should wear one more layer than adults.
- Don't forget hats, mittens, and socks or booties. These items help keep kids warm without interfering with car seat straps.
- Tighten the straps of the car seat harness. If you can pinch the straps of the car seat harness, then it needs to be tightened to fit snugly against your child's chest.
- Use a coat or blanket over the straps. You can add a blanket over the top of the harness straps or put your child's winter coat on backwards (over the buckled harness straps) after he or she is buckled up. The top layer should be removable, so your baby doesn't get too hot after the car warms up.
- Use a car seat cover ONLY if it does not have a layer under the baby. Nothing should ever go underneath your child's body or between her body and the harness straps. Be sure to leave baby's face uncovered. Many retailers carry car seat bundling products that are not safe to use in a car seat. Just because it's on the shelf at the store does not mean it is safe!
- Remember, if the item did not come with the car seat, it has not been crash tested and may interfere with the protection provided in a crash. Never use sleeping bag inserts or other stroller accessories in the car seat.
- Pack an emergency bag for your car. Keep extra blankets, dry clothing, hats and gloves, water and non-perishable snacks in your car. The National Safety Council also recommends having jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, a tool kit and kitty litter for traction.
While many of us will want to warm up our cars before hitting the road, remember not to leave your child unattended in the car. “You should also back the car out of the garage,” Spain said. “Even with the door open, you could be exposing your family to carbon monoxide fumes.”