Parents encouraged to mind the weather and new laws when buckling kids up

A mom checks her baby in a rear-facing car seat (NTV News)

As dangerous wind chills bear down on central Nebraska, safety experts have some advice that may surprise parents.

While parents want to keep kids warm, experts say leave the winter coat off.

“When we talk about winter jackets and puffy coats, what happens in a crash is they compress. When you have material that compresses like that, that degrades the security of the five-point harness and a child can easily come out of that harness,” said Mark Segerstrom of the Nebraska Safety Council.

On these blustery days, Segerstrom said parents should put kids in fleece or light sweatshirts, and then put a blanket over the top, or put the winter coat over their arms backwards once they're buckled in.

He suggests doing a pinch test. For demonstration purposes, put a child in their seat with a winter coat on, and snug the harness up.

See if the webbing of the harness can be pinched, which means it’s too loose. Without adjusting the straps, simply unbuckle the child and remove the winter coat, and try again. Parents will likely find the harness can easily be pinched, and not as snug as it should be.

In general, Segerstrom said 75 percent of car seats are installed incorrectly.

The Nebraska Safety Council is reminding parents of a new law that requires kids up to age two to be in a rear facing seat, and all kids up to 8 in a child or booster seat.

In addition, all kids up to age 8 need to sit in the back seat of the car.

(Watch an extended interview in this clip)

Segerstrom said, “It’s a safety issue. Of course sometimes parents grumble that does this mean I need to get a new car seat, or spend extra money on it but it’s a safety issue. In the state of Nebraska every year for the last 10 years we’ve averaged nine child fatalities age zero to 14 so this is a safety issue to try to keep our children safe, and keep them in the safest spot of the vehicle which is buckled in the back seat.”

Segerstrom said kids two and under need more support for the head, neck, and spine. That’s why they should remain rear facing as long as possible. He said the new state law is the minimum, and parents can keep kids rear facing longer.

For more, he encourages people to check out safekidsnebraska.org and drivesmartne.org.

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