According to Transport Canada, almost 2,000 children aged four or under were killed or seriously injured in car collisions in 2014 alone. The Canadian Paediatric Society has also found that motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of unintentional injury or death among children over the age of one. While these are scary statistics, there are steps parents can take to help reverse these trends.
One way is understanding how to properly dress children for their car seat, especially in the colder months. Snowsuits may seem like the obvious choice for both warmth and comfort. In fact, according to a national poll conducted by Allstate Canada , 23 per cent of Canadians with children under the age of 12 believe that using a snowsuit is the best way to keep their children warm while in their car seat. What many parents may not realize is that they could be jeopardizing their child’s safety for warmth when using bulky winter coats. The correct way to dress kids for their car seat is in warm, thin layers that lie flat and snug across the body. Surprisingly, the same Allstate Canada poll found that only 11 per cent of parents with kids aged 12 and under think that warm, thin layers are the best way to dress a child for their car seat.
So, why are warm, thin layers safer than insulated, weather-resistant outerwear? The most significant reason is that most snowsuits are big and puffy and full of air, which makes them great for keeping kids warm and dry in the snow and cold wind, but not very effective at keeping them securely strapped into their car seats or meeting car seat regulations.
How to Dress Your Child for Their Car Seat in the Colder Months
In the event of a car collision, a child can be propelled forward suddenly, causing a puffy jacket or snowsuit to compress. When this happens, the slack can cause the harness restraints to be less effective (even potentially allowing the child to be ejected from the car seat), which can result in serious injury or death. With thin layers, the straps can lay flat and snug against the child’s body. This allows the car seat to work the way it was meant to, keeping a child safe and secure.
The key to protecting your child here is to dress them appropriately for their car seat, not the weather outside. The pinch test is a great way to see if a seat’s harness is tight enough. You can do the pinch test by pinching the harness at the child’s collarbone. If you can pinch the strap together, the harness is too loose. If your fingers slide off, you’re usually good to go. But if your child is wearing a bulky coat the test may not be accurate. Try doing the test with the coat both on and off to ensure the clothing is appropriate.
If you can pinch the strap of a car seat’s harness together like this, then the harness is too loose.
You also don’t want to use other products that come between your child and the car seat, such as those sleeping bags that line the seat, as they too can interfere with the harness.
Mimi Brandspigel, Senior Product Manager of Car Seats at Safety 1st, understands parents’ impulse to wrap children up in a million layers for winter: “A lot of parents think, ‘Hey – this is Canada! It’s cold outside!’ It’s much safer though to have your child walk to the car in his or her winter jacket, then, once in the car, remove it before buckling in to their car seat. You can then use the jacket as a blanket over top of the car seat with your child’s arms in the sleeves. Just be sure not to cover the child’s face.”
Other options for ensuring your kids remain safe and comfortable include:
- Outfitting a child in warm, thin layers, along with a hat, mitts, and boots
- Warming up the car before loading up the family
- Placing a blanket over a car seat after the child is properly strapped in
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to safety and, even with the best intentions, some safety measures can be overlooked. The reality is that your child’s car seat will not function properly in the event of a collision if they are not properly dressed for it. And remember, safety trumps comfort, always!