Winter Is Coming – Are Your Car Seats Prepared?

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Winter Is Coming – Are Your Car Seats Prepared?

10/18/2017

GUEST BLOGGER: Ashley Green with SaskSeats

​Hi friends, I’m Ashley. When my sweet, precocious little girl was born in 2015, keeping her safe was a big priority. ​With my spouse and I both having been in bad car collisions before, car seat safety became a big passion of mine from day one. ​While I knew the basics of how to install and use the seat properly, I soon learned there was so much ​more (like, who knew those lower anchors have weight limits?). When I found out the CPST course was being offered in Pilot Butte, I knew it was something I had to take. I love helping parents keep their littles safe in their cars and “talking shop” with them.

 

WINTER IS COMING – ARE YOUR CARSEATS READY?

Winter is coming. Winter. Is. Coming! Whether you love or hate it, the temperature will soon drop and the white stuff will fly. Now is the time to make sure you’re prepared when it comes to your child’s car seat.

Maybe it’s just me, but the last two winters (and the tail end of the one before that) since we moved here have been really mild. We moved here from the NWT, where winter starts in September and the ice doesn’t leave the lakes until June… and it’s COLD. But mild weather doesn’t mean I want to be outside, even in -10° fiddling around with my car seats. Not many people do. So… here are the things you should do to prepare for winter when you’ve got littles in car seats:

Proper Installation:
Make sure your car seat is installed properly. That means ensuring you are using the correct belt path and that there is less than an inch of movement at the belt path (side to side and front to back – only ever check at the belt path you’re using, with your non-dominant hand and the strength of a firm handshake), at the correct recline setting and angle, harness height is adjusted properly for your child, and top tether is properly secured to the appropriate anchor point for forward facing seats.

Here’s a handy video that shows how to install a car seat like a pro!

You can head on over to SaskSeats.ca for more tips and tricks on installation and to find a tech in your area for help/to have a check done. Transport Canada data shows that four out of five car seats in Canada are not used properly (whether that’s the installation or harnessing of the child) – our goal is to have all kids riding safely.

Keep Them Warm and Safe:
Make sure you have car seat safe clothing for your kids. Snow suits/big winter coats/bunting bags and car seats do not mix. Those big warm coats we bundle our littles up in to go outside create bulk in the car seat… you tighten the harness as you normally would (so you’re unable to pinch any webbing at the collarbone) but in a collision, that material will compress, leaving a gap between them and their seat which could allow them to be ejected from their seat. Likewise with bunting bags, the thick layer that lies between the car seat and baby will compress in a crash and create that same gap between baby and harness (bunting bags, while marketed specifically for car seats, have not been crash tested with any seats so we don’t know what would happen in a crash and are not approved by car seat manufacturers… shower cap style covers are your best bet for babies in infant bucket seats). Besides, the vast majority of people warm up their vehicles in winter so…

The best way to check if a coat creates too much bulk in the car seat is to:

  1. Buckle your child in their seat while wearing the coat. Tighten as normal.
  2. Without loosening the harness, take the child out of the seat and remove their coat.
  3. Put them back in the seat and do up the harness.

If you can pinch any webbing at their collarbone then that coat is too bulky and unsafe for the car seat.


(This coat is too bulky for the car seat. The harness looks snug but drastically fails the pinch test once the coat is removed. Look at that slack!)

I know Saskatchewan can get really cold, but there are many safe (and easy) alternatives to those big bulky coats: packable/compressible down jackets, thin fleece jackets/bunting suits, thin layers with blankets, and car seat ponchos!

Packable/compressible down jackets can be found from so many stores these days, at a wide range of price points. Patagonia, MEC, GAP, North Face, One Kid (the Road Coat), Costco and Walmart all carry these (just to name a few). When using these, you don’t want them to fit too big on your child or they can still create bulk. Many of these are actually warm enough to play outside in, though you may want to throw a sweatshirt on underneath! Some companies even make packable down snow suits if you prefer – just be sure to give it the same test described above.


(2 year old, 36” and 30lbs rear facing, pinch test with the Road Coat, size 3T)

Fleece is very warm and is generally thin enough for the car seat. Add a long sleeved shirt underneath and most kids are set. Fleece bunting suits work great for infants and small children, and fleece jackets for older children can even be used as their top layer when using the layering method. You can always throw a blanket over them to get to the vehicle or to use for the car ride if you feel they’ll be too cold.


(6 month old in a Carter’s fleece bunting suit)

Anybody who is active outside in winter knows how effective layering is. An undershirt, long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt or fleece, coupled with mittens and a toque of course, is generally plenty warm enough for car seats.


(school-age car seat and booster riders in appropriate layers)

Lastly, car seat ponchos. Basically a wearable blanket with a hood that is double layered thick fleece – they are so warm that even on those reeeealllyyyy cold days, just a sweatshirt underneath can be warm enough. How they work: kiddo wears it to the vehicle and as you are getting them in their seat, the back of it flips up over the top of the seat. You buckle them up underneath the poncho and the front of it acts as a blanket. My daughter loved hers as a baby, and still uses it occasionally now, but she more often prefers her packable down jacket.


(infant with car seat poncho)

On a final note, I strongly encourage you to read your car seat manual! Many manuals include information about what is acceptable and what’s not regarding bulky clothing in the car seat.

Hopefully this information helps you keep your littles as safe as possible on the road this winter. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at cpst.ashley@gmail.com, via the SaskSeats website or on our Facebook page.

 

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