Holiday Travel Outside of Tampa Bay:
Ensuring Your Child Stays Safe in Cold Climates
As we gear up for the upcoming holiday, many of us are planning trips to the northern states, whether it is to visit family, go skiing, or seeing snow for the first time!
In the warm temperatures of Florida and Tampa Bay, we rarely must consider how to make sure our kids remain safe and warm in the car. However, with holiday travel approaching you may wonder how to safely bring your children along for the ride while also keeping them warm in blustery conditions.
Wearing a bulky coat and placing a child in a car seat can be a dangerous combination leading to a disastrous outcome in the event of an auto accident.
Crash forces are extreme; they can crumple the steel frame of the car. In a crash, not only is the steel compressed, so too are the clothes your child wears. This includes the extra bulk that comes with a puffy winter coat. For your child’s car seat to offer the maximum protection in a crash, the harness or seat belt needs to be as close to the child as possible. The more layers of padding or clothing between a child and the harness, the harder it is to properly fit the restraint to the child.
Your child’s coat can fool you, as it will make the straps seem snug, often super-snug, on your child, but in the instant of a crash when the puffy coat gets compressed, all that extra air is forced out between the bulky layer. This leaves the harness too loose to protect your child. The straps will be loose, often extremely loose, leaving your child at risk in the instant it matters most.
As a general rule puffy and bulky coats should not be worn under a safety restraint as it will leave the restraint too loose to be effective in a crash. It’s important that the harness is tight enough so that you can only insert two fingers into the harness without wiggle room. Extra slack in the harness can let the child move to the point where he or she is beyond the protection of the car seat, and could possibly even be ejected during a crash.
Now that we know the why let’s move on to the how: How can you test if your child’s coat is too bulky?
Step 1: Put the coat on your child, sit him or her in the car seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer fit more than two fingers into the straps.
Step 2: Without loosening the harness at all, unhook it and remove your child from the car seat. Take the coat off, put your child back in the car seat, and buckle the harness straps, which should be adjusted just as they were when the child was wearing the coat. If you can get more than two fingers into the straps, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.
What can you do if you’ve determined that your child’s coat is too bulky. How can you keep your child warm and safe? Below are ways that you can “bundle” up your bundle of joy while staying safe in a vehicle:
Shower Cap Style Covers: These are covers that just go OVER the top of the rear facing car seat. This type of cover doesn’t interfere with the harness at all and is easily removed if the child starts to get too warm. (7 A.M. Enfant Car Seat Cocoon, Baby Polar Gear Nuzzler, CozyCover, Jolly Jumper Steak-a-Peek and Tivoli Couture Infant Car Seat Jacket are all excellent options.)
Fleece: Well-fitting fleece is a great go-to option because it is thin enough to work well under a car seat harness yet warm enough to keep the child comfortable. One-Piece fleece outfits can be a great option, especially for the smallest of passengers. These are also great on those balmy days when you’ll be getting in and out of the vehicle throughout the day.
Open Coat: You can seat your child in the car seat with their coat unzipped. Strap the harness as your normally would, ensuring that it is snug against your child’s body. Then, zip the coat OVER the straps.
Backwards Coat: For a bigger child, after securing them in the car seat, turn the coat around and put it on backwards (with arms through the armholes), so the back of the coat serves as a blanket resting on the top of the harness. The best part about this is not only are they safer, but they also won’t overheat as the car gets warmer, they can simply pull their coat off if they get too hot.
Poncho: There are a number of poncho options that work well with car seats. The key feature is that the poncho doesn’t interfere with the harness, the poncho covers the front of the child while adding no extra bulk between the child and the harness.
Car Seat Poncho: The Car Seat Poncho is made from fleece and doesn’t interfere with the harness. The zipper can unzip from the top or bottom, making it easy to buckle the child in.
As you can see there are many ways to safely and warmly transport your most precious cargo in their car seats during holiday and winter travel. Like so many aspects of parenting, there is no one best option for all families. As long as you don’t introduce extra bulk under the harness or seat belt, kids can be safe and warm all winter long.
Stay tuned to our future blogs as we discuss the many other important aspects of car seat safety!
Statements from the Car Seat Manufacturers Regarding “Fluff” and Other Extras
Do Not dress your child in bulky clothing or other garments that will hinder the harness from being snug around your baby and properly latched between your child’s legs.
Accessory products for use with the Safety Seat are acceptable for use provided that they do not interfere with the harness assembly, or the proper adjustment of the harness such that it remains tight on the child’s shoulders at all times. Thick, soft, or other compressible material in excess of 1/4 inch thick should not be placed behind or under the child or between the child and harness straps. Examples of accessory products are head support pillows or rolled blankets to add additional head support.
The use of non-Britax Child Safety, Inc. covers, inserts, toys, accessories, or tightening devices is not approved by Britax. Their use could cause this restraint to fail Federal Safety Standards or perform worse in a crash. Their use automatically voids the Britax warranty.
NEVER use clothing or blankets that interfere with fastening or tightening the harness. An unsecured child could be ejected in a sudden stop or crash! To keep child warm, place a blanket over child and restraint AFTER you have properly secured child in harness.
DO NOT use any accessories, pads or products supplied by other manufacturers with this Child Restraint. Items not tested with this restraint could injure your child.
Child must be dressed in clothing with arms and legs that will not interfere with buckling and snugly adjusting harness. Never place blankets between harness and child.
Child must be dressed in clothing with arms and legs that will not interfere with buckling and snugly adjusting harness.
Do not use accessories or parts other than those provided by Combi USA. Use of accessories or parts from other manufacturers could alter the performance of the car seat.
Never secure child in infant carrier dressed in a bulky garment or heavy clothing.
Using any non-Diono/Sunshine Kids product with this restraint; or any product not specifically approved by Diono/Sunshine Kids for use with this restraint is not allowed. Use of such products voids manufacturer’s warranty and may seriously impact the products ability to perform properly in an accident.
Dorel (Cosco, Eddie Bauer, Maxi Cosi, Safety 1st)
Dorel Juvenile Group does not recommend the use of any child restraint accessories except those recommended by DJG.
In cold weather, DO NOT dress the child in bulky clothing like snowsuits if the child is riding in a child restraint. Bulky coats/ snowsuits make it difficult to properly tighten the harness to the child, which may allow the child to be ejected from the restraint during a crash.
DO NOT use accessories or parts other than those provided by Graco. Their use could alter the performance of the car seat.
Never use clothing or blankets that interfere with providing a properly tightened harness. An unsecured child can come out of the restraint during a crash. Place blankets over child AFTER harness has been properly tightened.
Do not modify your Infant Car Seat or Base. Only use products and accessories approved by Orbit Baby to ensure the safety of your child. This limited warranty does not apply to: defects resulting from use with covers, inserts, accessories, tightening devices, or other components not supplied by or expressly approved in writing by Orbit Baby.
Use only approved parts. Use of unapproved parts can affect the safety of the car seat and cause serious injuries in an accident.
When it is cold and you are using the seat in the Harness Mode, Recaro recommends the following tips to reduce possible injury or discomfort to your child:
Remove the child’s bulky clothing before restraining the child in the seat. This will help belts and other safety features function properly.
After restraining the child in the seat, cover the child and the restraint system with a blanket or their jacket to maintain warmth and comfort of the child.
TOMY/The First Years
DO NOT modify or attach any toys, padding, or other items to this seat. Untested modifications or padding could result in injury in a crash.
DO NOT secure an infant in the carrier with extra material, bulky clothing, or extra padding. Instead, place a blanket over the harness after properly securing the child.
Attorney Chelsie M. Lamie is a personal injury attorney located in Safety Harbor, Florida. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident or slip and fall accident, please call 727-501-3464 for a free consultation. You can also learn more about Attorney Lamie at www.chelsielamie.com.