With cold temperatures spreading across Texas, officials from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) are spreading awareness about the safety precautions parents should utilize with car seats this winter.
The biggest precaution to take is removing winter coats before buckling children into car seats, KFOX 14 reported.
The El Paso TxDOT shared that it is dangerous for children to have thick coats on under car seat straps. It can cause them to overheat or suffer severe injuries.
Monica O’Kane, TxDOT’s Traffic Safety Specialist, stated that thick jackets can overheat or suffocate kids in their car seats.
“We have to remember that children heat up a lot faster than an adult because they’re so small, so they’re going to heat up four to five times faster than us,” O’Kane told KFOX 14.
Heavy coats will also cause the car seat straps to have slack in them, according to O’Kane. This slack can lead to injuries in children from the shaking and movement it causes.
“The harness should not have any slack, it shouldn’t be wrinkled, it’s not pulled out, the clip should be right across their chest at their armpit level,” O’Kane explained to KFOX 14. “We should not be able to pinch any slack here, and if you put them in bulky clothing, of course, the harness would be a little bit looser and that would cause the child in case of a crash or a sudden break, the baby would shake more, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
Jackets can be put on over children once they are buckled up.
O’Kane said, “When you get into the car, you would buckle them in with maybe a long sleeve shirt, or a turtleneck, something that still keeps them warm, but if it’s still pretty cold, buckle them up, then put the jacket over them.”
Moreover, employing the correct procedures when using car seats and booster seats is all the more important considering that the leading cause of death for children is motor vehicle crashes.
Yet information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 46% of booster seats and car seats are not used correctly, according to the TxDOT website.
When choosing the right car seat, it should fit the child’s size and age, TxDOT explained. All children aged eight and under must ride in a safety seat under Texas law. However, children taller than four feet and nine inches do not have to ride in a safety seat.
Tickets for not properly using a child’s car seat can reach up to $250, according to TxDOT. Even children who do not need a booster seat or car seat must be buckled in when riding in the car.
Texas parents can utilize free safety inspections offered by TxDOT to ensure proper use. Virtual checks are also offered, according to Save Me With A Seat, the website of a TxDOT campaign launched in 2018.
“TxDOT offers virtual car seat checks to maintain the same level of service and education to families while following social distancing guidelines. The Child Passenger Safety Technician will connect with the parent or caregiver using any electronic device with video and audio capabilities such as a cellphone, laptop, or tablet, and teach them how to properly install their car seat, one-on-one,” the website shares.
There are four stages of children’s safety seats. Phase one is a rear-facing seat, phase two is a forward-facing or convertible seat, phase three is a forward-facing or booster seat, and phase four is using the vehicle’s seat belt.