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December 10, 2007

Holiday travel: 7 ways to dash through the snow safely

Ann Arbor, MI – As you go over the river and through the woods this winter holiday season, make sure you and your family are prepared for whatever may come your way while traveling.

Holiday Travel
Audio Listen to a podcast of Amy Teddy

”Winter time travel can be tricky. Safety must always be priority, so plan ahead and think ahead to make sure you and you family get to your destination safely,” says Cindy Wegryn, R.N. B.S.N, pediatric trauma coordinator at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Whether you are headed to grandma’s house, down the road or across the country, pediatric trauma experts at Mott, who also serve as representatives of SAFE Kids Washtenaw County, say safety must come first when traveling by plane or automobile this winter.

To help, Wegryn and Amy Teddy, manager of the pediatric injury prevention program at Mott, offer these tips to make sure you and your family arrive at your destination safely.

7 tips for holiday travel safety

  1. Make a car seat check part of your car check-up. Studies have found that 90 percent of all car seats are not being used correctly, says Wegryn. Some reasons for this include the seat not being right for the child, or installed incorrectly. Choose the right seat by checking all labels to make sure its specifications fit your child. To make sure the seat is installed properly, get it checked by a certified technician. Many services such as the Mott Buckle-Up program are free.
  2. Planning is the key to safe travels. “When traveling with kids, you have to always plan ahead. This is especially true during the winter months when you have excited kids on your hands, difficult elements, and more people on the road,” says Wegryn. Before the snow is piled up too high, pack into the back of your car a pair of boots, an emergency kit with blankets and flares, as well as water and non-perishable food in case of a winter breakdown. Make sure to check all driver warnings before heading out, follow all posted signs, and regularly check the radio or local TV station for weather updates. “Knowing the conditions you are facing is critical to a safe trip,” says Teddy.
  3. Buckle-up the right way. “Car seat restraint systems are designed to go over only one layer of clothing,” says Teddy. Remove all snowsuits, coats and excess clothing items before securing your child in their car seat. Keep children warm by layering blankets over the restraint system.
  4. Pack your car wisely. “People are secured, but keep in mind the other items in the car are often not,” Wegryn warns. Adds Teddy: “When a car rolls, it is like a blender – everything gets tossed around.” Make sure all objects are secure in the car –  lower luggage gates located in between the rear seats and the luggage space of many vehicles, and keep toys, food and other objects tethered.
  5. Car seats are the safest airplane seats.  “Children of all ages can be injured during turbulent flights and car seats are the best way to protect them from injury,” Wegryn says. While buying a seat on a plane for children ages 2 and older is required by the Federal Aviation Administration, the safest way for children to travel is in their own car seats, secured by a child restraint system.  Many airlines offer discount rates to parents who purchase seats for their children and, if available, are willing to offer extra seats to children. “Some booster seats are not allowed during air travel though, so be sure to verify child restraint guidelines prior to boarding,” Wegryn adds.
  6. Use and bring your own car seat wherever you travel.  “The safest car seat is the seat you are most familiar with,” says Teddy. “Being familiar with the seat and its history are two important things to know.” Travel is hassle enough, and checking up on the details of a different car seat is a task that is likely to fall to the bottom of the list. Avoid all confusion by bringing your own car seat wherever you travel, whether in your own car, a rented one, or on an airplane. If you must borrow or rent one, make sure to check its history, review the user’s manual before setting out on your trip and make sure the seat will be available upon your arrival. And as always, make sure it is installed properly.
  7. Baby-proof any home you go into. While you may have spent hours making sure your own home is safe for your young children, the home you’re visiting for the holidays may not be ready for little visitors. Parents should practice extra vigilance, make sure someone is watching the kids at all times. Also, ask your gracious hosts to make sure sharp objects are out of reach, outlets are covered, stairs have gates or may be closed off, and that medicines are put away. Consider bringing your own child safety tools with you too. “Anyone who has not had a child in their house for some time may have forgotten these small, but very important details that keep children safe,” Wegryn says.

To learn more, visit these Web sites:
UMHS Mott Children’s Hospital Buckle-Up Campaign or call 734-763-2251

UMHS Your Child Topics: Motor Vehicle Safety

American Academy of Pediatrics: 2007 car safety seat guide

FAA: guide to flying with children

SAFE KIDS Washtenaw County is part of the National SAFE KIDS organization. There are more than 300 state and local SAFE KIDS coalitions. To reach the Washtenaw Co. chapter, call (734) 615-3301.

Written by: Milly Dick

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