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Warm AND Safe: Winter Car Seat Safety

Guest Blogger and Certified Child Passenger Technician, Becca Peterson is back today with some great tips for keeping your kids safe and warm in their car seats this winter season.

As the weather is getting colder we all want to make sure our kids are cozy warm when we leave the house.  Something to keep in mind, however, is that puffy coats and car seats don’t mix!  Car seat straps are intended to lay against your child’s body with little space between the strap and the child.  Any extra bulk or padding will compress a great deal from the extreme forces of a car crash, causing more space for your child’s body to have to move to meet the straps that are intended to protect them.  Any extra movement can lead to additional or worse injuries to the child. 

Here is an example of the extra space created by coat bulk and why in a crash the child would not be adequately protected once the coat’s bulk is compressed from the crash forces (which are way stronger than any human could possibly pull the straps to compress the coat).

Harness over the coat creates too much slack when crash forces compress the puffy coat. Photo by Heather Lentz

But never fear, there are options for keeping your little ones warm and safe in their car seats!  For infants in a rear-facing-only carrier seat, strap baby in while in the house in their normal clothing, hat, mittens and booties, then cover them with blankets or a “shower cap style” car seat cover. 

This baby is safely strapped in to his seat with a coat on backward on the top and a blanket on his lap to keep him nice and warm. Photo by Heather Lentz

For older kids it gets a little trickier because their car seats won’t be in the house with you.  There are a few good options here:

  1. Child has a designated “car seat coat” that is a thin fleece or sweatshirt material. This is typically thin enough to not interfere with the harness or cause any substantial compression issues in a crash.  Strap the child into the car seat and place a warmer coat on backwards (so their hands are still going through the sleeves) or place a warm blanket on top of them.  This is beneficial also because when the car warms up the child is able to remove the warm layers instead. 

    This little guy has a thin jacket on under his harness and a warm coat on his lap to keep him warm. Photo by Heather Lentz

    2. Make or buy a car seat poncho. These ponchos are essentially a double layer fleece blanket that allows the child to wear the poncho out to the car, flip the poncho up so you can strap the child in without extra bulk, then place the poncho back down on top of them to keep them warm. 

    Car seat poncho. Photo by Jillian Bourke

    No matter how you decide to keep your little one warm during the winter, just remember that no puffy coats should be placed under the harness or between your child and his or her car seat.  In the end you will find that it becomes a simple routine that you will get used to and will not seem like a hassle anymore. To have your seat checked for FREE consider coming to the upcoming car seat check scheduled on November 18, 2017 at Snell Motors.  Please call ahead to schedule an appointment.

    Becca Peterson is a certified child passenger safety technician (CPST) and licensed attorney in Mankato.  In her full-time employment Becca is a judicial law clerk for the Minnesota Judicial Branch.  She uses her CPST certification in her role as a part-time car seat technician for the Mankato Clinic.  Becca has two kids, Charlie and Gretchen, with her husband, Dave.  When not working or car-seat-ing (it’s a real word) Becca enjoys playing with her kids, crafting, and reading.

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