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Winter Dangers

car crash dummy

Beware of dangers of bulky sweaters, coats or fleece clothing in car seats.

Winter coats and car seats can be a dangerous combination. Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics and NHTSA recommend no coats or bulky clothing should be worn in car seats. Car seat technicians also say to put nothing thicker than a sweatshirt on your child under the harness straps of a car seat.

Bulky sweaters, coats or fleece garments PREVENT a snug fit of the car seat harness on your child. Although the harness may appear to be snug over a coat, when the coat is compressed by the force of a crash, the harness will not protect your child the way it should.

Parents can use hats, gloves, blankets on top of the car seat straps, light fleece jackets or there are specially designed coats for the car seat (see below*) to keep baby warm.

today show logoCrash test video: Car seat alert: A winter coat could endanger your child
TODAY Show, 12/14/15)

Video showing how much slack a thin winter coat can cause in car seat straps

Child Stories about crashes involving children wearing winter clothing in car seats:

The stories below are about children injured or killed because bulky winter wear caused their car seat harness not to fit them tightly enough. These are preventable incidents. Please read their stories and make sure you take precautions to ensure your child is snugly strapped into their car seat on every ride.

  • Emma Niznek – Emma died after she was ejected from her car seat in a crash while wearing a heavy winter coat.  Read Story
  • Gabriel Blaney – Gabriel was ejected from the vehicle during a crash because of a snow suit causing his car seat straps to fit too loosely.  Read story

Carbon monoxide dangers and safety tips

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is emitted by running vehicles and can quickly cause you to become disoriented, suddenly feel ill, or even die. Below are important tips to keep you and your family safe from this dangerous gas:

Install Detectorscarbon monoxide detection
  • Ensure that you have working carbon monoxide detectors in all areas of the home, especially near sleeping areas. Check batteries twice a year during daylight savings time and replace detectors every 6-10 years.
Running Vehicle Dangers

vehicle in garage

  • Always clear the tailpipe of a vehicle in inclement weather conditions before spending any amount of time inside a running vehicle. If the tailpipe becomes clogged with ice, snow or other debris, carbon monoxide can leak into the passenger compartment of the vehicle and quickly cause injury or death.
  • Do not put children or adults inside a running vehicle while clearing snow or ice from the vehicle. If you must, always makes sure to clear the tailpipe first.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in any enclosed space such as a garage.
  • Never leave a vehicle running in the garage, not even with the garage door open.
Keyless Ignition Dangers

keyless ignition

  • Keyless ignition vehicles always should be double-checked to ensure the vehicle has been turned off. Even if you take the key fob with you, the vehicle can keep running and leak carbon monoxide into your home.
  • During busy times and changes in routine, be extra cautious as distractions and multi-tasking can lead to forgetting to turn the car off, even for the fanatically detail-oriented, organized person.
Important Tips to Protect Children
  • Keep vehicles locked at all times and make sure keys and remote openers are out of reach of children. Children may be tempted to get into vehicles to play or hide.
  • Do not allow children to play behind a running vehicle. This is dangerous for numerous reasons. The driver is unable to see them in the blindzone that exists behind all vehicles and they will be exposed to the fumes coming out of the vehicle exhaust system.
  • NEVER leave a child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute.

Miscellaneous Winter Vehicle Safety Tips:

bad weather driving

  • Be ‘weather aware’ and avoid traveling during inclement weather whenever possible.
  • Familiarize yourself with your route before you go on road trips, even if you use a GPS system, and let others know your route and anticipated arrival time.
  • Be prepared. Keep the following supplies in your vehicle;
    • Ice scrapper, shovel, abrasive material (kitty litter or sand) for traction if you get stuck in snow or ice
    • blankets, gloves, hats, socks
    • flashlight with extra batteries, flares, phone charger, etc.
    • water, high-energy foods, baby formula, diapers, necessary medications
    • resqme window breaking and seat belt cutting tool on your car keys
    • first aid kit with basic medical supplies
    • jumper cables
  • If you become stranded, stay with your vehicle and put bright markers like a scarf on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light turned on so rescuers can more easily spot you.
  • Always check the exhaust pipe to be sure it is clear of snow, ice or debris so carbon monoxide does not leak into your vehicle – before spending any amount of time in a running vehicle.

Driving in Inclement Weather:
  • Practice cold weather driving when your area gets snow and allow teens or inexperienced drivers to do the same — but not on a main road. It’s best to practice in an empty parking lot in full daylight.
  • Know what kind of brakes your vehicle has and how to use them. If you have antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure. If you don’t have antilock brakes, pump the brakes gently.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • “Steering into the skid” – If your vehicle begins to skid, stay calm and ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you want your vehicle to go. Do not jerk the wheel in any direction. Keep your foot off the pedals (gas and brake) until you are able to maintain control of your vehicle.
  • If you use winter floor mats, do not stack them on top of your regular mats as this may cause pedal interference.
  • Don’t forget to clean snow, ice or dirt from the forward sensors, windows, lights, backup camera and other sensors around the vehicle before you hit the road.

Vehicle Maintenance Tips for Winter:
  • It’s always a good idea to have a mechanic check your vehicle for any issues before cold weather hits.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have adequate tread.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • Check your vehicle’s fluids (windshield washer, coolant, etc.).
  • Make sure your windshield wipers are in good working order. Replace worn blades if necessary.
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