10 winter car seat safety tips
When the mercury drops, parents need to take a few extra precautions to keep their children safe in their car seats. Here’s everything you need to know…
Did you know that the force of a car crash could flatten the fluffy padding inside your child’s winter coat and cause your precious cargo to be thrown from their seat because of the extra space created under the harness? Yikes.
There are a few additional safety measures to take when strapping your child into their car seat during the cold months. Here are the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)’s top winter car seat safety tips.
1. Strap, then wrap
Avoid putting any bulky clothing – such as winter jackets and snowsuits – on your child before strapping them into their car seat. Follow the “strap, then wrap” rule: strap them into their seat wearing only thin clothing, and then wrap them up with a blanket or put their winter coat on backward (more on this below).
2. Store your infant car seat indoors
If you use an infant-only car seat, store the carrier portion indoors when you’re not using it to keep it at room temperature. This will reduce the amount of body heat that your child loses when you place them in it.
3. Start the day early
Because you’ll have more gear to assemble and you’ll need to drive carefully on snowy or icy roads, you should wake up and get out the door earlier on winter mornings to avoid rushing in risky conditions.
4. Dress everyone in thin layers
Instead of dressing your child in a thick coat or snowsuit that can put them at risk in their car seat, layer thin garments that will keep them warm. Options include long-sleeved bodysuits, tights, leggings, long underwear, pants, sweaters, thermal shirts and thin fleece jackets. Infants should generally wear one more layer than adults to stay warm. So, if you’re wearing a sweater and a hat in the car (you shouldn’t wear a thick coat for your safety either!), your baby should wear the same with an extra blanket on top.
5. Keep extremities warm
Beanies, mittens, warm socks, booties and boots are great ways to keep kids warm without compromising their safety. If your child is a thumb sucker, carry spare pairs of mittens in case they get wet or use fingerless gloves for car rides.
6. Do the harness pinch test
When your child is wearing several layers of clothing, they might look like they’re tightly strapped into their car seat when they’re not. If you’re able to pinch the material of the harness straps between your fingers, they need to be tightened. You should only be able to slip one finger between the straps and your child’s chest.
7. Use a removable layer over the straps
Whether you choose to keep your child warm by putting their coat on backward over the buckled harness straps or by placing a blanket over them, make sure that you’ll be able to easily remove the extra layer once the car warms up so that your child doesn’t get too hot.
8. Car seat covers should only go on top of the seat
Car seat covers are safe to use as long as they don’t have a layer that goes underneath your baby or between your baby and the harness straps. Make sure that your baby’s face is uncovered to avoid dangerous rebreathing of exhaled air.
9. Beware of unsafe products
You might assume that all the products you see on store shelves are safe to use with your baby’s car seat, but they aren’t if they haven’t been specifically crash-tested with the seat. Don’t use sleeping bag inserts for strollers, car seat covers, headrests, pillows, harness covers, waterproof pads or any other product that didn’t come with your car seat.
10. Keep an emergency bag in your car
Pack a bag that contains spare clothes, hats, gloves, blankets, water and non-perishable snacks in case of a roadside emergency. These items can also come in handy if your child gets wet while you’re out and about. Don’t forget to repack your emergency bag every time you use it.