Winter Car Seat Safety
Heavy winter coats could be a detriment to your child's safety
Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of injury to children under 14 years old. Parents and caregivers know children need to be secured properly in the car, but statistics show 73% of car seats are not used or installed correctly. In the state of Illinois, it’s a law that a child must be in car seat from newborn until age 8.
When it comes to installation, a good place to start is by reading the car seat manufacturer’s instructions as well as your vehicle owner’s manual on how to install the seat using the seat belt or lower anchors and top tether.
“A properly-installed car seat shouldn’t move more than one inch front-to-back or side-to-side regardless if you are using a forward-facing car seat or a rear-facing car seat,” said Ginger Streitmatter, Advocacy Department Program Coordinator, Children’s Hospital of Illinois. “Push down on the seat or base while pulling the attaching belt tightly to get a snug fit.”
Once the seat is properly installed in the car, parents must make sure the child is correctly in the seat. You should not be able to pinch the any extra webbing on the harness straps securing the child into the seat.
We don’t like to think about projectiles in the car, but people are also projectiles. If the mesh restraint is not properly placed on the child they can actually be thrown from the seat into front seat passengers.
During the winter months in colder climates, placing your child in their seat wearing a heavy winter coat can cause unintentional harm because heavy coats contain air to provide warmth. In an accident, the air is compressed from the coat which may mean the harness straps are too loose to secure the child in the seat. Streitmatter recommends placing the child in the seat without wearing their coat. After they secured in the seat you can place the coat or a blanket over top of them.
“The chest clip also needs to be level with the arm pits, because if you get into an accident, this is what’s going to keep your child safe. Not only is it potentially hurting the child not being properly restrained, it’s also hurting you. We don’t like to think about projectiles in the car, but people are also projectiles. If the mesh restraint is not properly placed on the child they can actually be thrown from the seat into front seat passengers.”
Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians with Children’s Hospital of Illinois are available to answer questions and provide education and instruction on car seat usage and installation. In central Illinois call 1-877-277-6543, then press 1 for more information or to schedule an appointment for a car seat check. Each appointment lasts approximately 30-45 minutes.
Additionally, the Children’s Hospital of Illinois team conducts car seat safety checks that are free to the public. A schedule of events can be found on the Children’s Hospital of Illinois website at www.childrenshospitalofillinois.org.
More information on proper car seat safety and installation can be found at www.SafeKids.org and www.SaferCar.gov/parents.