Driving with small children can be stressful. Adding snow and sometimes ice to the mix can make drivers even more anxious.
Debora Riccardi, director of community outreach at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park and Buckle Up for Life, the national child passenger safety program from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Toyota, offered tips on car seat safety and other cold-weather driving conditions.
1. Ditch the winter coat. Before securing your child in their car seat, remove their winter coat. "A coat can prevent the harness from fitting correctly," said Riccardi. "It also could compress in a crash, compromising the seat’s ability to protect your child."
2. Stick to travel advisories. "During storms, follow the travel advisories from your local officials, she said. "Your local travel authorities know best; stay off the roads until conditions have improved and it’s safe to drive."
3. Use the "Inch Test" and the "Pinch Test." Pinch the car seat strap near the child’s shoulder; if you can pinch a wrinkle in the fabric, tighten the strap until it is snug, said Riccardi. "For the 'Inch Test,' grab the car seat toward the back and bottom and tug from side to side and front to back. If the seat moves more than an inch in either direction, tighten it."
4. Secure loose items in the car. "Make sure all loose items – particularly winter weather essentials such as shovels and ice scrapers – are tightly secured in your vehicle," she said. "These objects could become projectiles in the event of a crash."
5. Think different rules for booster seats. "Seasonal changes don’t come into play with booster seats," she said. "Bulky coats affect the fit of car seats, but there’s no equivalent concern when it comes to booster seats and seat belts."