As the wintery weather approaches and the temperatures begin to plummet, it can be very easy to forget that thick or bulky coats can prevent your child's car seat from performing correctly.
The truth is, placing your child in a car seat with a coat on is extremely dangerous - ill-fitting car seat restraints will put your child at risk of injury or possible ejection in the event of a serious accident.
Wearing fluffy snowsuits and thick winter coats change the way a child fits into a car seat. In order for a baby car seat or toddler booster seat to function properly, the straps must remain tight against the child's chest at all times.
According to the Road Safety Authority of Ireland (RSA), you should be able to fit two fingers between the harness at the top of the child's shoulder in rearward-facing car seats.
They said: "If a harness is being used in rearward-facing seats, it should be tight enough so that only two fingers can fit between the top of the child’s shoulders and the harness but your fingers should be unable to rotate (turn) in that position."
If a harness is being used in forward-facing seats, the RSA also noted, "it should be tight enough so that only two fingers can fit between your child’s breastbone and the harness, but your fingers should be unable to rotate in that position."
To ensure your child is safe during the colder months while travelling by car:
- Dress your child in thin layers with tight fitted clothing such as tights, leggings, vests and long-sleeved bodysuits. Then add trousers and a warmer top like a sweater or thin fleece-lined jumper.
- Once your child is comfortably placed in the car seat, tighten the straps until the harness fits snugly against your child's chest. This will make sure that the harness makes contact with your child's body.
- Then place a blanket or poncho style coat over the top of the harness straps to keep your child warm for the duration of your journey.
- Alternatively, you can put their coats on backwards once secured in their car seats. Simply pop their arms through the armholes so the back of the coat is resting on top of the harness.
Remember, many car seat bundling products are not safe. If the item did not come with the car seat, it has not been crash-tested and could possibly interfere with the protection it provides in the event of a car crash.
Also, never use stroller accessories or sleeping bag inserts in a car seat and never use any device that changes the mechanism required by law that allows for the buckle to be undone in one action. Modified car seat straps can affect the performance of the seat itself.