The cold season is back again – the time when the kids wear extra clothing including warm scarves and caps, gloves, sweaters and heavy winter coats. But exactly these extra layers can pose another hidden hazard as you try to use your child’s car seat correctly. Children wearing thick clothes in the car seat are in grave danger in the case of an accident. This is because heavy jackets, anoraks and padded baby overalls perfectly protect the babies from the cold, but definitely not from the violent forces of an impact. Quite the contrary: Heavy winter clothes reduce the effectiveness of the safety belt system in emergencies and compromise your child’s car seat safety.
WHY CAUTION IS ADVISED?
One of the basics of correct car seat installation, in addition to buckling the car seat tightly into your vehicle, is that your child is “buckled snugly” into the car seat itself. The straps need to remain tight against the child’s chest. Winter coats and snowsuits make car seat safety difficult because they change the way a child fits into the car seat. If the harness straps are loose, then your child can be injured, or could even fly out of the car seat if you are in a crash. It’s ok to adjust the straps to allow for thicker clothes, but make sure the harness still holds the child snugly. Also, remember to tighten the straps again after the thicker clothes are no longer needed. Keep in mind that this will likely not apply to very thick and heavy winter coats though, which may become compressed under the harness straps in a crash, become too loose, create a lot of slack in the harness, and may allow your child to become injured or even ejected from the seat and/or car.
Furthermore, the mostly smooth material of the anoraks and thermo jackets can also cause problems. The harness straps are likely to slip from the shoulders, and the child is thrown forward or sideward violently in the case of an accident – with serious consequences for the head and the spine.
There is also a high risk for children despite sitting in the perfect car seat, but because of the thick clothing, they appear too big already for the infant carrier, for example, and are moved to the next group of car seats too early by the parents. Changing from the rear-facing infant carrier to a forward-facing car seat too early, in particular, can lead to dangerous injuries for small children.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Less is more when it comes to winter clothes in car seats. Instead of putting your child in a car seat with a heavy winter coat, keep your child in the clothes they will be wearing when they are indoors. Thermo jackets, heavy coats etc. should be taken off before starting the engine of the car. Place the child in the infant seat or car seat, and make sure the harness straps are snug over the shoulders, and that they lie straight and flat down to the buckle. The safety cushion of Group I car seats should also be positioned as near to the body as possible. In the case of older children, already using a car seat with the car safety belt only, you should particularly pay attention to a taut routing of the lap belt. It would be best to slightly lift the sweater to secure the child properly.
Buckle the child and then put the coat or blanket over him – on top of the harness system. You can even turn the coat around and put his arms through the sleeves after he is buckled into the car seat. This will ensure your kids are kept snug in their seat, the harness system is able to do its job in the event of a crash, and the kids stay warm. Even the energy absorbing materials underneath the textile cover of premium car seats keep the child’s back warm as they work like a thermal insulation. Special comfort provides a park heating in the car. Many modern Diesel vehicles are equipped with an auxiliary heater as standard which can be converted into a park heating.
Following please find some basic tips for a safe journey with children in cars:
- Children rely on the grownups and learn from them
- Before starting the engine of the car, check the car seat and its proper installation
- The child should sit in the car seat and not on a cushion, for example, which is placed in the car seat (slip hazard).
- If a child does not sit tight in the car seat, as there is too much space left on both sides in the car seat, some rolled up towels can help.
- Every car passenger should be buckled properly – including the adults. Therefore, the trip should only begin after everybody in the car is correctly buckled.
- Shouting, screaming and jumping distract the driver of the car. Therefore, the fellow passenger should look after the children exclusively.
- Should the child need anything during the trip, or starts nagging, to pull over and stop, is the best solution.
- Always an adult should open the harness or safety belt system of the car seat, and not the child himself. You should never show your child in the early years how to unstrap and get out of the car seat, as he would likely repeat this during the journey. During long journeys children often get uncomfortable and bored to sit tightly in the car seat. So it’s no wonder that the child will open the belt buckle if he knows how to achieve that. In case the child has opened the belt buckle, pull over and explain to the child that you will only continue until he is buckled again.
- There should be no heavy and loose objects in the car, as they could injure the passengers should you need to slam on the brakes or in the event of a frontal collision.
- Always store luggage in the trunk
- A child should never sit in the car seat without the presence of an adult, as he could strangle himself while trying to get out of the car seat.
We would also like to encourage you to visit our CYBEX Child Safety Center:
Friday next week, we will pick another topic all about child safety which might be of interest to you. Please stay tuned and visit us again.
YOUR CYBEX CHILD SAFETY TEAM