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December 19, 2007

Winter jackets and car seats don't mix

An update on our post last week about car seats and winter jackets:
Like most parents, this safety issue caught us by surprise. It was the first we'd heard of any "official" guidelines about the potential hazards of winter jackets in car seats.
  • We can't find anything specific on winter jackets on the Transport Canada web site. (If you can find any mention on their site, let us know!) We also have a pamphlet from Transport Canada on car seat safety (dated 2005) that has no mention of winter jackets.
  • We have another pamphlet from the City of Ottawa, and it doesn't mention anything either. (Ironically, it does have a photo of a toddler in a car seat, wearing a winter jacket!)
  • Nor can we find any winter jacket warnings in the car seat instruction booklets.
There are a few web sites that do mention the issue:
  • Rotary Safety Village: "If your child doesn't fit as well in the car seat with his / her winter coat on, take the coat off. A fluffy winter coat will introduce slack into the harness, which could lead to ejection for the child in a crash. The fluff in the coat will compress greatly, creating "dead space". There are many polar fleece coats on the market now that are thin enough to use under a harness, yet can keep a child very warm."
  • About.com: "The car seat harness needs to stay close to the child’s body at all times. If a coat is in between the harness and the child's body it could cause the child to be ejected from the seat. All coats and clothing will compress in a crash, but thicker winter coats and snowsuits could compress enough to allow the child to be ejected from the car seat.
So winter jackets and car seats don't mix ... but we don't think you will find too many Canadian parents who are willing to take their kids in and out of a jacket in the dead of winter to get them into a car seat!

One last note: Sears and Safety 1st responded to our original complaint, and have offered to replace our car seat with a different model that's slightly bigger and has a different type of harness. But still not suitable for a winter jacket.

Related: Ottawa Kids Guide


  1. Anonymous7:12 PM

    How about heating up the car first? Or putting kid in the car, taking off coat, buckling harness, and then putting the coat on backwards? I'd rather my kids be a little cold than risk whiplash...

    You could check on car-seat.org for other winter car ideas (they have a canadian forum).

  2. Hi Glen, remember me?! I just linked to you from another Ottawa blogger (http://danigirl.ca/blog/) that I've been reading for some time. You got into blogging years before I was really even aware of it, and I'd forgotten that you had one!

    Regarding the car seat thing: when my daughter was born, we were told we should see a certified car seat technician to ensure that our car seat was properly installed. I was amazed at how much I learned from them (including the elusive fact about winter jackets), and how poorly the installation instructions are written. To get a REALLY good installation on our second car seat (after the first was outgrown) actually required two people, one with a knee in the seat and one to haul on the seatbelt. You won't see that in the instruction manual. That's why I highly recommend that EVERY parent see a CERTIFIED car seat technician every time they get a new car seat - or even if they get a new car. (We found out, for example, that in our car there is no way to safely install a car seat in the oft-recommended middle position.)

    Not using a winter jacket wasn't a problem when Jade was an infant, and I think that since we live in Whitehorse, I can speak for of the country. Popping her into the car seat and throwing some blankets on top before bringing the whole contraption outside was easy. Once we got into the kind of seat that stays in the car, I would warm the seat with a hot water bottle in extreme conditions - but I still generally stuck with the blankets. Now that she's older, though, and we're actually going to OUTSIDE destinations, the choice is getting more difficult...

    Sorry for the essay, and good to "see" you again.

  3. Anonymous10:08 PM

    We use blankets and as fawn said, in cold weather we sometimes use a hotwater bottle to heat the seat up. Not that it ever gets all that cold here. We live in Ireland. Just encase any of you guys are thinking of travelling with your kids in Europe the law states that children up to 13 years of age should be secured in the correct child safety seat. You can see the new EU laws herer http://www.babystuffhire.com/car_seat_law.php.

    I suspect they're a little different from your own so better to know in advance of travelling.

  4. A lot of people know that winter preparation is important but so few do it. It's the procrastination that does it. Then your car breaks down or gets stuck and your screwed. Winter prep - gotta do it.


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