Bulky winter clothing such as puffy jackets and snowsuits pose a threat to children in car seats. In a crash, the padding of the bulky clothing flattens. This creates extra space under the harness which may cause a child to slip through the straps and be thrown from the seat.
These car seat safety tips will help keep your little one safe and warm this winter:
If you use an infant car seat with a base, store the carrier portion inside the home when not in use. This will reduce the loss of your child’s body heat when placing them into a chilly car.
Give yourself an early start and do as much as you can the night before. Unexpected wintry weather conditions and a fussy baby could make winter mornings a challenge. Setting out clothes and packing lunches and diaper bags ahead of time will make your morning smoother.
Dress your child in layers. Start with leggings or long johns. Then add another layer, like a sweater with a thin jacket over the top.
Hats, mittens, socks and booties keep kids warm without interfering with the safety of your child’s car seat. Keep an extra pair handy in case they get wet. Avoid hoods. They make it difficult to tighten and keep the shoulder harness straps in the correct position.
Use a coat or blanket over the child after they have been snugly buckled in. The blanket can be easily removed after the car warms up. Be aware that infants and children with special needs cannot communicate when they are too warm and are at a higher risk of overheating.
Use a car seat cover ONLY if it does not go under your child and it is approved for use with your car seat. Nothing should go underneath, behind or between your child’s body and the harness straps of the car seat. Keep baby’s face uncovered to prevent re-breathing suffocation.
Do not use sleeping bag inserts or other stroller accessories with the car seat. If it didn’t come with the car seat, do not use it.
Always have an emergency bag with extra blankets, dry clothing, hats, gloves and non-perishable snacks in the car in case of an emergency.
In Virginia, all children must use a properly installed car or booster seat that meets the Department of Transportation standards. Child passenger safety experts and medical professionals recommend that children use a booster seat until they are 4’9” tall, which could be between 8 and 12 years old. Find a car seat safety check site near you.
About Eileen A. Gerling, OTR/L, ATP, CPSTI
Eileen Gerling is an occupational therapist at CHKD who specializes in adaptive seating and child passenger safety. Gerling has worked at CHKD for more than 19 years. She coordinates CHKD’s child passenger safety program and is a certified child passenger safety technician (CPST) instructor and an instructor for national child passenger safety curriculum for Safe Travel for All Children; Transporting Children with Special Healthcare Needs – one of two programs specializing in child passenger safety in the state of Virginia.