Today’s below freezing temperatures feel especially cold after yesterday’s record breaking temperatures in the upper 50’s! Rohan and I were out most of the day getting my driver’s license renewed before the average temperatures were set to return for the rest of the week. Despite our frighteningly mild winter here in Maine, with yesterday being just one of several record highs this season, today feeling like 10 with the wind chill factored in, and below freezing either way, reminds us that we still live somewhere that average temperatures are at or below freezing most of the winter and where they can and do drop to the teens and below regularly. In fact, it’s not uncommon in some areas of our state for the wind chill to keep the feel of the air below zero for days. Even so, we still have groceries to buy and doctor’s appointments to get to and all the other various errands that parents tend to deal with; so we have bins and hooks full of jackets of varying thicknesses, fleeces for layering, hats and mittens, gloves for the wet stuff, scarves and snowsuits for the kids (and generally doubles or even triples of some items just in case, as going outside in wet clothing is dangerous). Trying to get everyone out the door after bundling everyone up to the point they need assistance getting out of it (and of course that’s the moment someone has to pee!) has instigated moments that could potentially win cash prizes on funny video shows! However, there’s something that so many families do when getting ready, something that seems like what a good parent would do, being sure to bundle them up to keep them warm in these frigid temperatures, but in fact could be the very thing that ends up causing severe injury or even death in a crash.
One local mama, Chynna Blaney learned this lesson the hard way in 2013 when a car accident ejected her 6 month old son Gabriel from his car seat and threw him 25 feet into a snow bank in the woods, leaving his still buckled car seat (still attached to the seat belt that had been ripped from the frame!) lying on the road near the mangled remains of their vehicle.
Miraculously, baby Gabriel was found alive after Angie Horler, the driver of the other vehicle, (a mother of 2 young boys who were with her at the time of the accident) was the only one to hear him crying and went to search for him. She found him with his fleece snowsuit hood off his head and his face slightly pressed into the snow. She was later given an award along with another couple who stopped to help. I could not imagine what that scene must have been like, according to that article,
Messinger said “it ranks in the top 5 worst scenes he’s witnessed in his 30-year career. While the vehicles were mangled, most disturbing was the presence of an empty child safety seat on the ground next to one of the vehicles. In the accident, much of the back end of the car had been ripped off… there was a car that literally was torn apart with a mom in the front seat trying to get out. And she was saying, ‘Where’s my baby, where’s my baby?’ And I looked in the back where the backseat should have been and there was an empty car seat on the ground. “So I feared, being an emergency medical worker, the worst.”
Gabriel was lucky to be found alive, he had a skull fracture but he was expected to make a full recovery. There is no way to know exactly what caused baby Gabriel to be ejected from his car seat, as Deputy Chief Craig Messinger said,
“I have seen car seats ejected from a motor vehicle with children in them. I have never seen a kid come flying out of one. That’s a first for me in 28 years of doing this,”
however, with the straps still buckled, it seems obvious they were too loose. Whether they just weren’t pulled tightly enough, or the chest clip was too far down or whether the “fleece snowsuit” was in fact bulky enough to have baby Gabriel slide out as shown below, doesn’t really matter, the fact that he is okay, that everyone is okay, is the important part of that story however I also believe there is a reason for everything, and for a wreck to be this bad with everyone expected to be okay, there must be a lesson in it. As Angie Horler said
“I honestly think the hand of God carried this baby from the vehicle and laid it on the snow…There were many miracles performed last night and many angels surrounding us as we went through this horrible tragedy.”
In the last few years since this happened, they have done crash tests with jackets on the dummies and have realized just how dangerous a practice it truly is. Even pulling the straps tightly around your child leaves too much slack in the dynamics of a crash. Here is Car Seat Lady with a more thorough explanation of that:
Still want to see that a jacket can do that? Here is an actual crash test video:
To show just how much a jacket can really change the length of the straps, I took these pictures of my 2 ½ year old son Rohan in his convertible car seat:
This is him in a jacket, strapped into his car seat. I have pulled the straps to where they feel tight, without constricting and pass the pinch test.
This is after removing the jacket and making zero adjustments to the straps before buckling him back in. I believe most parents would recognize this to be too loose immediately, however considering how many infants I see all bundled into their bucket seats being put up on shopping carts at my local stores (a whole other safety issue!), far too many believe that being pulled tight around the jacket/snowsuit is sufficient. Hopefully by writing this, and by you sharing it, we can help save a life!
Now that you know what not to do, let’s go over what you should, here is a picture of Rohan in his seat correctly:
You can see the straps are even, can pass the pinch test and the chest clip is at armpit level. He is dressed in thin clothing that will not interfere with the function of the straps and has nothing on his seat that did not come with the seat itself (no aftermarket product is considered safe, only use products made by and that came with your seat, i.e. no support pillows, strap covers, etc.). Once he is in the seat, we use a blanket over the top of everything to keep him warm if we have to leave before the heater can warm up the vehicle prior to going out. Smaller babies in bucket seats can use the blankets that go over the top only while the car is not in motion, or for while walking outside of the vehicle.
Were you aware that you cannot use a jacket in a vehicle? Did you know that includes adults and older children as well, not just small children in child safety seats? How do you keep your family warm on these chilly days?