Monday Health & Wellness: Car Safety In The Winter |
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Monday Health & Wellness: Car Safety In The Winter

admin September 24, 2012

It’s fall already!  And the cool weather is rapidly approaching.  This brings with it some new safety guidelines, especially when it comes to car safety (chec Just Car Checks for safety guidelines and regular checks).  Car accidents are more common in the winter due to ice and snow, at least in the northern part of the country (where I am).  It’s important to be safe!

Car Seat Safety

I am a huge car seat safety advocate.  It is very important to me to keep my children as safe as I can while we are traveling in the car.  There is no downside to keeping them in safe car seats; but if something were to happen, they could be in trouble and there are no do-overs.

The current safety guidelines are:

  • Children should be in an appropriate rear-facing seat until they are at least two years old and 30 lbs. (but preferably to the limits of the seat; many now go to 45 lbs.)
  • Children should be in a five-point harness in a forward-facing position until at least four years old and 40 lbs. (but again, preferably to the limits of the seat; age 5 – 6 years and 50 – 65 lbs. is better)
  • Children should remain in a booster until they are at least 8 – 12 years old, 4’9″ tall, and 80 lbs.

These are the current guidelines according to all the major safety organizations.  The minimum laws are 1 year and 20 lbs. for rear-facing, 4 years and 40 lbs. before moving to a booster.

Car seat safety is not about what is “cool.”  I have heard too many parents say, “But they’ll be made fun of!”  First of all — no, they won’t, because these guidelines are for all children.  Everyone will (should) be doing it so it will be normal.  Second, I am not concerned with what someone else’s 5-year-old thinks of my car seat situation.  I’m concerned with choosing what I believe to be safest for my children.

Others say, “Well, we turned out okay.”  That’s called survivor bias.  You turned out okay.  But current safety data and statistics show kids are a lot safer in cars today if they follow these guidelines.  Many people from our generation didn’t make it.  They aren’t here to tell their stories.  Anecdotal evidence like “we turned out fine” does not matter anyway — as I said, statistics show these guidelines keep kids safer.

Still others say, “It’s totally fine to turn my child around when she can sit up” or “He likes being forward facing better.”  This is not about what you feel like doing.  This is about keeping your child safe.  If you are in the U.S., it is not even legal to turn around a child at 4 months or 6 months.  It is not legal to turn a child under 1 year AND 20 lbs. for any reason.  And no, it doesn’t matter if your doctor gives you the go-ahead: that just means the doctor is not aware of current safety guidelines.

Please, keep your children safe in the car by selecting an appropriate car seat and using it according to the safety guidelines above.

This baby’s car seat is being used in a VERY unsafe manner! See if you can spot all the flaws.
Image by flowers.justin

Installing a Car Seat

If you are unsure how to properly install or use a carseat, please see a safety technician.  Over 90% of parents do not use their car seats correctly!

Common mistakes include:

  • Straps too loose (if you can slip more than one finger beneath them, they are too loose)
  • Chest clip too low (if it’s down by the baby’s belly, it can kill them in a crash by pressing their internal organs.  It should be even with their armpits)
  • Car seat not tightly installed (it should not move more than 1″ from side to side at the base)
  • Adding things to the carseat that are “after market” (car seat covers that go under the straps, strap pads, etc.)  These void your warranty in a crash and may make the seat unsafe

Please see a technician if you are uncertain if your baby is safe in the car!  Even if you use a car seat, not using it properly increases the chances of your child getting hurt in an accident.

Car Safety In The Winter

Special Winter Issues

Many parents put their child in a carseat with a winter coat on.  This is a huge mistake!  A thick winter jacket will compress in an accident, leaving the straps too loose.  Baby could fly out of the car seat.  This is especially true if the chest clip is too low.  This can and has killed children.

Keep the puffy coats out of car seats.  Bring it along in the car to put on after you unstrap the child (if it’s that cold, warm the car in advance, have the child wear it from house to car, then put it back on when you arrive).  Put it over the child backwards once the straps are on.  Use a blanket over the straps.  Choose a lightweight fleece jacket that fits more safely beneath the straps.  The fleece jackets are what we typically choose to do, and I don’t loosen the straps from the “safe” amount prior to the child wearing the jacket.  In cool, but not cold weather, light layers work just fine too.

Preparing for Car Accidents

We never expect to get in an accident, but they are more common in the winter due to poor driving conditions.  They can also be more dangerous because cars are harder to control, and once the accident has occurred, people are out in freezing temperatures until help can arrive.

Keeping a car-safety kit in your trunk is a great idea, for both car accidents, or just in case of a flat tire, becoming stranded in snow, etc.  A car-safety kit should include:

  • A flashlight (preferably one that doesn’t require batteries; some can be wound up)
  • Road flares
  • A jack
  • Jumper cables
  • Non-perishable snacks (nuts, dried fruit, bottled water, jerky, etc.)
  • Lightweight, warm blankets

These items can help keep you warm and safe in case of an emergency in the winter.  If you have small children, extra diapers and wipes are a good idea too, and if needed, bottles and formula (preferably powdered so it will store safely).

Keeping your family safe in the car in the winter is just a matter of planning and preparing ahead of time.  Make sure everyone’s strapped in safely and you’ve got an emergency kit and you’ll be ready for most occurences!

How do you keep your family safe in the car in the winter?

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4 Comments

  1. Yes they DO get made fun of. I’m the mom of an 8 year old who still rode in a five point harness because she had not outgrown it. My state law says at 8 they can legally be out of a seat. Our school does a lot of field trips with parent drivers. We choose to drive for all of them because we can’t be sure their seats will be installed and used properly by others. The kindergarten kids in my 6 year olds class were the worst, even the older kids said it. “You’re riding in a baby seat!” My kids know why they are in seats. We took each teasing as an opportunity to teach. “A rear facing seat is a baby seat, kids ride in those until they are 3 or 4. This seat with a harness is a safer seat than a booster. Look at all the straps holding him/her in the seat? Do you think that looks safer, if we were in a crash?” Two years later… the nice part is older kids whose parents don’t put them in a booster (but should) request to ride in one when we drive them. Ideally the new requirements would put everyone on the same page, but realistically it’s going to take a LONG time for that to happen.

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  2. The teasing is part of why I’m glad we plan to homeschool. I can imagine that if a child gets ridiculous about teasing and their parents aren’t helping, well, we can just choose not to associate with them anymore…

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  3. So, what are all the mistakes in the lower picture? Chest clip is way too low and there are what appears to be after-market strap covers, but then what? The dimple in the strap under the harness connection, indicating it’s twisted? Are the straps also too loose?

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  4. The straps are above the shoulder. It should be below in rear facing car seats, above in forward facing car seats. I’m assuming this is a rear facing baby, since it looks like it’s in one of those carrier type car seats.

    Also, given the air vents near the car seat, I’m thinking the child is in the front seat of the vehicle.

    After we had our truck serviced at the dealership, we noticed a couple things “off” with the car seats. That made me mad, mad, mad! The base of our son’s carrier car seat was MUCH looser. The toddler’s car seat LATCH strap was incorrectly installed, weaving through the harness strap. It kept snagging on the clips and we could never get it tight enough until we figured it out. Why in the world would they tamper with the car seats for an oil change?!

    Reply

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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