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SAFETY 1st: Winter Car Travel Safety – and What You May Not Know You’re Doing Wrong

With the colder weather coming, Canadian parents have a mental checklist on how to get through the winter months as safely and comfortably as possible: snow tires, warm clothes, proper boots, comfort food, etc.  Parent’s constantly worry whether their children are properly dressed in winter gear when heading out into the elements.  But did you know that bulky winter jackets are actually unsafe when used in car seats?

Wait – what?  It goes against almost all our natural parenting instincts, but children should not be wearing their bulky winter jackets while travelling in car seats – here’s why.

  • The insulating properties of winter jackets involve fluffy materials with air pockets that help trap the body heat from escaping and keeps the warmth trapped in against our bodies.
  • These materials and air pockets compress when faced with a strong force.
  • When harnessing children into their car seats the harness does not compress these materials enough – but a sudden harsh stop or a collision does.
  • This results in slack between your child’s body and the harness and could result in your child slipping through the harness and ejecting from their seat.

So how do you reconcile the parental duty to keep your children warm but also keep them safe while travelling in the car in winter?  The main thing is to ensure they are protected from the cold air by placing a coat or blanket ABOVE the harness – here are some tips on how to do that:

  • Dress them in layers including a thin micro-fleece type jack underneath their harness and then once they are secured in tightly, cover them with a blanket or their jacket turned backwards and their arms through the sleeves that way.
  • For babies in infant car seats (the kind that come with a base or as part of a Travel System), you can easily cover them this way in the house, carry them to the car to snap the seat into the base, and go.
  • For toddlers in convertible car seats that remain installed in the car, dress them in layers and their coats to get them to the car, then remove the bulky coat, strap them in tightly in their harness, and use their coat backwards or cover them with a blanket.
  • Mitts, boots, and hats – anything that doesn’t interfere with the tightness of the harness can be kept on at all times to help keep them warm.

While this approach is not the most convenient it is the only safe way to travel in their car seat.  It can actually also be the most practical for your child’s comfort since the air in the car will warm up and the blankets or jackets can be easily removed while the child is still strapped in tightly at all times.  This practice also makes it more convenient when using an infant seat as part of a travel system to walk in a mall during those cold months – you can leave the warm outer layer on from the car to the mall and then conveniently remove it and place it in the basket underneath without completely unharnessing your baby while inside the mall.

Safety 1st  is a leader in child safety and offers products and safe solutions to give parents peace of mind, so they can spend less time worrying and more time enjoying time with their children – even in those cold winter months.

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