Traveling Safely This Holiday Season
December 15, 2020
Below are some helpful reminders and tips from our TRICAM team on traveling safely this holiday season.
Buzzed, High, and Drunk Driving
Even though our celebrations are looking a little different during the pandemic, make sure your safe driving behaviors don't change. Whether you had few drinks at dinner or joined some coworkers for a happy hour Zoom call, don't get behind the wheel when you're drunk, buzzed, or high. Your reaction times are slower and your senses are dulled, putting you and others at risk. Try to plan ahead if you know you'll be drinking alcohol or using marijuana; either by designating a sober driver or planning to spend the night where you are. But even if you don't plan ahead, know that there are lots of good options to get home safely. Call an Uber, Lyft, or cab to come pick you up. Take the bus or train to get home. Call a friend or family member who can pick you up, or stay where you are if that's an option.
There are always excuses not to make the safe choice— ‘I'll have to come pick up my car tomorrow.' ‘I don't want to call and bother anyone.’ ‘The Uber/Lyft/cab prices are too high.’ ‘I don't want to impose and ask my friend if I can stay over.’ ‘I'd have to walk two blocks to the bus stop and it's freezing out’ (*in the case of an extremely inebriated person, this wouldn't be a safe choice*). These are minor inconveniences, but the price that we could pay for making the unsafe choice is much higher, even if no one gets hurt. Legal fees and a suspended driver's license from a DUI arrest can cost thousands of dollars, or even the loss of your job in some cases. And in the worst-case scenario, if someone is hurt or killed in a crash, the consequences are unimaginable. Please do your part and make the safe choice. The other people on the road don't have a say in your choice, but their lives could be lost or changed forever if you make the wrong one.
Traveling With Kids
When you're flying, there are several things you can do to make things easier, both on your flight and once you arrive at your destination.
- If you have a baby or young child who is still in a car seat, bring that on the flight, if possible. If you travel frequently and have a heavy convertible car seat, it might be worth purchasing a cheap, lightweight car seat to use for travel.
- For kiddos under two, families aren't required to purchase a seat on the plane and can hold their child on their lap. But it's safer for babies and toddlers to have their own seat on the plane, so that they can use their car seat. Even if purchasing a ticket for your child under two is too expensive, you can bring along their car seat when you board, and if the flight isn't totally full, your child might be able to have their own seat on the plane (for free!) and you can install their car seat next to you. If the flight is full and there isn't an extra seat for your child, you can gate check the car seat and it'll be waiting for you at your destination.
- If you have a child in a booster seat, bring the booster with you to use at your destination, but you won't be able to use it on the plane because there isn't a shoulder seat belt.
- Remember to keep kids buckled into their car seat or the seat belt on the plane whenever they are seated and especially when the seat belt light is on. This protects kids if there is turbulence and keeps them safe and secure in their seat.
- There are many products that make travel a little easier, like foldable car seats and booster seats, travel harnesses, and inflatable boosters. Just make sure to read the instructions so you know if it's safe in planes, cars, or both. Practice using the travel car seat or booster seat before your trip to see if it's easy to install quickly in cabs, rideshare vehicles, and rental vehicles.
Coats in Car Seats
Parents are often surprised to learn that kids in car seats shouldn't wear coats in the car-- even during our freezing Chicago winters. Coats and snowsuits are bulky and compressible, so during a crash, they squish down and leave extra space between the car seat harness and the child. Seat belts and car seat harnesses also stretch during a crash (to let our bodies slow down a little), and coupled with a bulky coat, that creates too much space and can allow kids' shoulders to slip out of the harness. That allows excessive movement of the head and torso and can result in an injury.
So how can you keep your kids warm and safe while in the car? There are a few things you can do:
- For babies in infant car seats (the kind with a carrying handle), bring the seat inside with you each day, so every time you place baby in the seat, the seat will be at room temperature and not chilly. Dress baby in thin layers and place baby in the car seat. Once you adjust the harness (snug, so you can't pinch any excess webbing, and chest clip at armpit level), then you can tuck a receiving blanket around baby's torso-- tuck the blanket under baby's arms so baby can't flip it up on their face. Then you can make sure the handle is up in the carry position and place a bigger blanket over the handle to keep wind and cold out while you head out to the car.
- Remember that over bundling and being too warm increases the risk of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID). The car will be warm shortly after you start driving, and excessive blankets aren't necessary or safe.
- For kids who are in a bigger car seat, like a convertible or combination seat, it isn't practical to bring the seat in at the end of each day. Bring kids out to the car in their coats, and if you have time, start the car and warm it up while everyone still has their coats on. When you're ready to get going, take coats off and have everyone get buckled up.
- Once kids are buckled up, bigger kids (*at least 2 years old and up) can put their coats on backwards, over the car seat harness or seat belt. The back of the coat will end up on the front of their body when you do this. Coats and jackets without a hood are even better. Now the bulky material isn’t between your child’s body and their harness or seat belt. If they start to feel too hot, it’s easier to remove, and since it’s on top of the harness or seat belt, it won’t compress in a crash. But this isn’t safe for babies and younger toddlers, because the coat and hood could create a suffocation hazard.
*This advice is for kids with good head and neck control and without any special needs that could compromise their airway. Always seek your pediatrician’s advice for your individual child.
- If you warm your car up, make sure to be safe. Never let your car warm up in the garage, as it creates poisonous carbon monoxide gas. Also, make sure to always take your key out of the ignition and take it with you when you get out of the car, no matter where you are. Car jackings can happen quickly, even when you just get out at a gas station to pay at the pump. Don’t leave your car running to keep your kids warm; turn the car off and take the key with you. Kids won’t get too cold while you pump gas.