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Bulky winter clothing may create car seat safety hazard

Before buckling babies and toddlers into car seats, parents should be sure to remove puffy winter jackets that may slacken seatbelts, warns Transport Canada.

Before buckling babies and toddlers into car seats, parents should be sure to remove puffy winter jackets that may slacken seatbelts, warns Transport Canada.

Barbara Baines, a spokeswoman for the federal agency, said winter coats and snowsuits may pose a serious safety hazard in the event of a crash.

"Unfortunately during a collision because there is compressing material, the weight of the child and the force of the collision is going to push that suit down — which is going to make the harness loose," Baines said Tuesday. "[This] is going to make it possible for ejection."

Transport Canada said caregivers should keep children warm using fleece sweaters or blankets during the winter months.

Ottawa consumer Glen Gower said he was surprised to learn that the harnesses on some car seats were not designed to be used for children wearing winter clothing.

Gower e-mailed the manufacturer Dorel Juvenile Group after having trouble buckling his two-year-old daughter into her seat. The company responded saying material more than five centimetres thick could jeopardize the functionality of the seat.

"They aren't guaranteeing that our daughter is safe with a snowsuit, or a winter jacket, in the car seat," he said.

Baines said parents should not be able to fit more than one finger underneath the chest harness.

"When you're pushing down on the snowsuit, you're going to see how loose it is," she said.

Transport Canada estimates when properly used, car seats have been found to reduce deaths by 90 per cent in the event of a collision.

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