Winter Driving and Travel Safety Tips for Families

Keeping warm, safety-checking the car and other safe travel tips you need to know when your family heads off for vacation in the snow.

Many families have plans to pack their bags and hit the road this winter. But the slick Michigan highway conditions aren’t the only thing your family should prepare for.

As a pediatrician, certified child passenger safety (CPS) technician, pediatrician, mother of three and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn, Dr. Laura A. Jana recommends the following tips to help families safely enjoy their winter travel driving and travel experiences.

1. Choose the right car seat

Keep your toddler rear-facing and in a five-point harness for as long as possible – until the child no longer fits within the weight and height limits of the seat. Make sure you have a car seat that fits both your car and your child properly. Test the seat in your car before purchasing it.

I also recommend investing in a car seat that offers side-impact protection. Look for features such as an adjustable head support, and deep side and head wings made out of energy-absorbent material to minimize lateral head movement in a crash. To see examples of seats with side impact crash protection features, visit child passenger safety pioneer Britax USA.

2. Get a safety check

It is estimated that at least 80 percent of all car seats are installed and used incorrectly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s site offers a list of child safety seat inspection stations by ZIP code. Also, be sure to have a certified CPS technician check your child’s seat and make sure it’s in line with Michigan’s car seat safety guidelines.

3. Don’t over-bundle

Although it’s important to dress your child in warm clothes during the winter, thick winter coats or snowsuits can significantly loosen the car seat’s straps and compromise your child’s safety. In order for a car seat or booster seat to function properly, the straps need to remain tight against a child’s chest. When placing your child into the car seat, remove coats or snowsuits and put a blanket on top of the baby after he is already in the car seat as needed, for extra warmth. And check out our tips on dressing a child for the winter months, if you need some more pointers.

4. Pack a medicine bag

Remember to pack fever reducers (such as Tylenol and/or Motrin), a thermometer and any medications your little one is currently taking. Also, pack practical items such as cotton balls, cotton swabs and the shampoo/wash you typically use, so you don’t have to rely on the availability of hotel freebies.

5. Fly safely

For airplane travel, I advise parents to buy a seat for a child under 2 years old – even though it’s not always required – and secure him in an FAA-approved car seat to keep him safe not only during takeoff and landing, but also in the event of any in-flight turbulence. For infants, travel systems come especially in handy as they can make taking a car seat through the terminal much easier, not to mention offering plenty of extra storage space. You can then simply gate-check the stroller as you board the plane.

By planning ahead and taking a few extra steps, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the ride!

This post was originally published in 2010 and is updated regularly. 


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