WINNSBORO — During the polar vortex, when temperature dipped into the teens, parents bundling up their young children against the cold to may unwittingly be placing them at risk for injury in a car accident. According to Ann Stone, program assistant in DEHC’s child passenger safety program, a child bundled in a heavy winter coat could be ejected from a car seat and killed.
“Heavy coats do not provide an extra layer of padding and protection,” Stone said.
Instead the coats can compress during a crash, causing the child’s restraints to come loose.
“Parents need to put the child into the car seat in street clothes, fasten the harness and then cover up the child,” she said.
A child’s warm winter coat can still be used while he or she is in a car seat. Place the coat on backwards by pulling the child’s arms through and having the back of the coat cover the child’s front, like a snuggie blanket would. Other options to keep a child warm include wrapping the child with blankets.
Though Stone said snow suits were on the market that had holes and clips that seemed as if they would be helpful in fitting a child into a car seat, she said DHEC did not recommend the suits.
“This is all about keeping kids safe,” she said.
According to safekids.org, road injuries are the leading cause of preventable deaths and injuries to children in the United States. But child safety seats, when used correctly, can reduce risk of death by up to 71 percent.
Safe Kids also offered the following tips for parents or guardians to help ensure child safety:
• Perform the “Inch Test.” Give the seat a good tug at the base where the seat belt goes through it. A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch, side to side or front to back.
• Do the “Pinch Test.” Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check your car seat manual). With the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. An adult should be unable to pinch any excess webbing.
• For both rear- and forward-facing child safety seats, use either the car’s seat belt or the lower anchors and for forward-facing, the top tether to lock the car seat in place. Don’t use both the lower anchors and seat belt at the same time. They are equally safe- so pick the one that gives you the best fit.
• If having trouble, questions or concerns, visit a certified technician to make sure your car seat is properly installed.
• Buy a used car seat only if you know its full crash history. Buy it from someone you know, not from a thrift store or the Internet.
• Replace a car seat after it has been in a crash.
• Adults should set an example for children by wearing safety belts and make sure all passengers buckle up.
• Never leave a child alone in a car. The inside temperature can rise 20 degrees and cause heatstroke in the time it takes for an adult to run an errand in and out of the store.