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4 car seat safety tips for busy winter traveling

December 18, 2015,
little boy in car seat playing with a toy

When it comes to Christmastime, driving home to celebrate with loved ones is as traditional as singing carols and wearing snowmen sweaters. In fact, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 91 percent of all long-distance holiday trips happen via cars.

"Some 91% of long-distance holiday trips happen via cars."

If you have a child in the vehicle, part of proper driving etiquette is ensuring he or she sits in a safety seat. Per statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, car seats reduce the risk of injury by up to 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers. However, that's only if you know how to properly use these life-saving devices. Here are a few vital safety tips to keep in mind:

1. Does my child really need a car seat?
Some parents are genuinely unsure about whether their children need a car seat. As the Montgomery County government pointed out, children can start using their own seat at the age of 8. it's worth noting that other states might have slightly differing laws. If you're still not sure, there are other guidelines or rules to follow. For instance, if your child can't sit back all the way, or the belt doesn't lay properly across his or her lap, then it's a good idea to keep using the car seat for a little while longer.

2. Should my child always use the same seat?
As Safe Kids Worldwide pointed out, there are two distinct kinds of car seats, and each one is suited for a specific stage in a child's life. Kids age 2 and younger need rear-facing seats, as these protect infants' especially fragile head and neck area. After age 2, switch your child to forward-facing seats, as these are better for the higher weight ranges of older toddlers. Regardless of the type, place the car seat in the back to maximize effectiveness.

3. How do I check if the car seat is secured?
Most car seats are connected to the car via a seatbelt. It's important to make sure you've looped the belt through the right connectors, and if you're ever unsure, then re-read the safety manual. If it's properly secured, the belt should have very little slack. The child is then secured into the seat by a harness. According to Parents magazine, you'll have properly adjusted the harness when you can slip just a finger through the straps. Make sure the seat's clip is at chest level.

4. Are there any other important safety considerations?
As the temperature begins to drop, children rely on large winter coats to stay warm. However, as Consumer Reports noted, wearing these jackets in a car seat can actually increase your child's risk of injury. That's because the coats create negative space, and your child can fly out of the seat if you make a sudden stop or are involved in an accident. Your best bet is to buckle your child into the car seat and then put the coat on over top, or use a blanket instead of a coat for warmth and insulation.

If your child does happen to be injured during an automobile accident, you can always take him or her to the nearest CareWell Urgent Care Center. The doctors at each CareWell facility are specially trained to provide the finest post-accident care for kids, treating muscle sprains and even car seat-related skin rashes.

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