Winter Car Seat Safety

Did you know that children wearing coats in their carseat is actually very dangerous? While it may be freezing out, there are quite a few reasons why this common practice is deemed unsafe. Traditional (and popular) sleeping bag style inserts are also dangerous as they create slack in the harness. We invite you to take a few minutes to read today's blog post -an excerpt from  Car Seats for the Littles -to learn how to keep your family warm AND safe in the car, even on the coldest of days! 


"Why is it Unsafe to Wear Some Coats in the Vehicle?

For your child’s car seat to offer the maximum protection in a crash, the harness or seat belt needs to be as close to the child as possible. The more layers of padding or clothing between a child and the harness, the harder it is to properly fit the restraint to the child. The harness can end up fitting to the thick coat, and in the event of a crash, all that extra air is forced out between the layers, leaving the harness too loose to protect a child. A loose harness, at best, means extra crash time on the child, and at worst, could mean ejection from the seat. This principle also applies to children riding in boosters and adults in seat belts.

How to Check

pinch test, winter coat, coats in car seats

Slack left in the harness when winter coat is removed

Here’s a great visual of how loose the car seat’s harness could be in a crash with this coat on the child. We also see the way to wear that coat safely in the vehicle.

A simple test can help decide if this coat is too bulky to go under the harness.


Try it in Reverse
Here’s another way to look at that test.

1.Without a coat on, secure your child in their car seat. Tighten the harness as usual so no webbing can be pinched at the collarbone.
2. Remove the child from the car seat without adjusting the harness.
3. Put the child’s coat on, then try to buckle them back into the car seat.

Note: properly fitting fleece jackets or sweatshirts do add a bit of bulk to the child’s body and will often require a little harness adjustment. The key here is harness length that remains appropriate to the child’s compressed clothing, compared to ‘dangerous amount of extra slack intro the harness via an uncompressed puffy jacket.’

In many cases, you’ll see that coats introduce a potentially dangerous amount of slack to the harness. The pinch test can determine how much slack is acceptable.


Aftermarket Products

For the most part, we’re not fans of aftermarket products. FMVSS213, the federal standard for car seat safety testing, doesn’t apply to these products so there’s no consistent way to determine whether or not any particular product is safe. While these products are marketed as “crash tested”, there is no way to crash test them since there are no federal standards for them to be tested against. They not only add bulk, but often interfere with correct harness routing. That’s why we advocate for using only the equipment that’s shipped with your particular car seat and not adding anything to the seat.

Here’s an example of a popular product and a look at why it’s potentially an unsafe option — the JJ Cole Bundle Me. We added the Bundle Me to this little cutie’s car seat, adjusted the harness, then removed the Bundle Me. Look at how much slack there is in the harness now!

Bundle Mes and car seats don't mix


What it Really Takes to Stay Warm
Another important consideration is that children do not need to wear all those layers while in the vehicle. Even if it takes a while for the vehicle to warm up, when it does, the child can become hot, sweaty, and generally cranky if they are dressed in too many layers. Usually, even the tiniest of babies need at most one more layer of clothing than their parents are wearing to be comfortable.

So often we see caregivers envelop their babies in a onesie, socks, fleece pajamas, a hat, a blanket, and then inside a Bundle Me in a warm car while the caregivers are wearing sweatshirts. "

Full article found here


So what is a parent or caregiver to do?

1.Try warming up the car ahead of time. Some cars do come with car starters and if that is not an option, starting your car a few minutes before heading out the door can really take the chill out of the car on a frigid day.

2. A simple blanket tucked around the baby/child after buckling, paired with a hat. As mentioned above, cars do warm up quickly! We like to keep blankets in the car but on frigid days, Ill bring one to the car from my house (because then it is already warm!)

3. A shower cap style car seat cover , such as The Igloo Cover   or The Car Seat Cocoon. This is such an easy and no fuss solution for the babies still in the bucket style car seat. Bonus: the 7am Cocoon can be used over a baby carrier as well for an extra layer on baby wearing walks.

4- A BuckleMe Baby Coat ! Genius-ly designed by Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs). Buckle Me Baby Coats work at the same harness settings as no coat. Truly crash tested! In test, Buckle Me Baby Coats show a significant reduction in forward movement compared to traditional puffy coats.

5- After buckling, put your child's winter coat on backwards over the harness. They will think its silly but it will keep them warm! 


We realize that some of these suggestions may add time to your hectic day (preschool drop off/pick up line anyone?) but we promise that these couple of extra seconds will be worth it in the long run to keep your child safe. Have questions or need help figuring out the safest winter solution for your family? Contact us! We have CPST on staff ready to keep your children safe and warm!


HBG Family 

Sarah L
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