Layers of risk? What to know about bundling up and buckling up

With snow and temperatures falling, the pickup at One City Schools has been a bit… puffier.

Elsa Gumm has to get her 4-year-old, Ceren, and another daughter ready for any weather. Lately, that’s meant packing the snow pants, hats, boots, gloves and other layers to keep them warm. She knows it makes a noticeable difference once it’s time to get strapped in for a car ride.

“I think when you’re getting kids ready in the morning, it’s always a matter of choosing your battles,” Gumm said.

Luckily, Gumm inherited a hand-me-down coat that’s less thick and just as warm as other winter coats, which means less work to get little Ceren into her car seat safely.

“Taking coats on and off and that additional time is not usually a battle I want to fight,” Gumm said.

Rochmaan Weatherby says winter gear adds at least 30 minutes to morning routines, especially for his daughter, Christian, who can be particular about her outfits. He says taking all of that off once it’s finally on is not practical.

Layers of risk? What to know about bundling up and buckling up

“As a parent, you have to bundle up and get to those destinations and then get back,” Weatherby said.

Layers of risk? What to know about bundling up and buckling up

Despite the time crunch, experts still say the best way to make sure your child’s car seat, booster seat or seat belt is secure is to remove all the layers before loading up the car.

Sherri Faust is a child safety educator with Safe Kids, which is based at American Family Children’s Hospital. She understands the frustration parents much feel when it comes to the suggestion, but she still recommends removing anything bulky to make sure kids are protected.

“If you put the child in the car seat with a bulky coat and you pull the harness tight, you’re tight to the outer wear, and if you take that jacket off or there’s a lot of puff,” Faust explained. “If you’re involved in a crash, that gives the child or the body momentum to come forward too far, which is going to increase the chance of injuries on the body.”

Layers of risk? What to know about bundling up and buckling up

According to recent statistics, nearly 800 children ages 12 and younger died in a car crash over the course of a year. Almost 300 of those kids were not restrained.

While the vast majority of parents believe they are using a car seat correctly, at least 72% of child restraints show “critical misuses,” including loose harness straps on a child.

“It is an extra step, but it’s an important one to keep those kiddos safe,” Faust said.

Faust says parents should be removing heavy coats and draping them backward over the car seat straps. That way, a child can kick the jacket off if they get too hot in the car. Blankets are another option, but again, Faust recommends laying it on top of the harness.

“We really want those harnesses tight to the body, not that outer wear,” Faust said.

If you would like an expert to check your car seat installation or practices, Safe Kids is hosting a car seat check Friday at Fitchburg Fire Station No. 1. You’re required to make an appointment by emailing safekids@uwhealth.org or calling 608-890-8999.

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