Meet the Windsor mom who has helped install more than 800 car seats

Over the last four years, Elyse Cote has volunteered her time to help hundreds of parents safely install their car seats.

Elyse Cote co-founded Children's Restraint Education of Windsor-Essex

Elyse Cote is the co-founder of CREW, which stands for Children's Restraint Education of Windsor-Essex. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

I'm about to become a parent. We're due near the end of the month. Being a journalist — and thus used to last-minute deadlines — I figured we had plenty of time to prepare.

Boy, was I wrong.

Last week, at my wife's last checkup, the doctor told us she was pretty sure we'd see her at the hospital much sooner, perhaps even that weekend.

We freaked out a little bit — and my first thought turned to that car seat I purchased a few weeks ago, but hadn't gotten around to installing. I had heard from many parents that it's good to get some professional help before trying to do it yourself.

In some communities, you can drop by the fire hall or police station for assistance, but that's not the case in the City of Windsor.

I noticed there was a free car seat clinic coming up on May 11, but with our doctor saying it could be any day now, I needed something sooner.

That's how I met Elyse Cote.

On a busy day, Cote can help 2-3 people install their car seats. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

She's the co-founder of CREW, which stands for Children's Restraint Education of Windsor-Essex. Run completely by trained volunteers, CREW offers free appointments for parents and caregivers in Windsor, LaSalle and Chatham who contact them on Facebook.

In the four years since Cote started the organization, she's helped local parents safely install more than 800 car seats.

Jonathan met up with Cote in her car to learn more. Tap to hear their conversation:

"When I had my daughter almost seven years ago, I didn't know anything about car seat safety. I got a car seat from my friend and used it until it expired. Then I started learning things on our local mama's group on Facebook about car seat safety ... and I started becoming interested in it," she said.

Cote was especially intrigued by recommendations that children stay rear-facing until they were 4 years old.

"I thought that was so crazy, so I knew that I had to learn more for myself," she explained.

Eventually, Cote ended up taking a course offered by the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada to become a certified child passenger safety technician, and founded CREW with Gillian Slate. 

On a busy day, Cote, a stay-at-home mom, can help install 2-3 car seats a day. Along with Slate and Karen Randell, another member, the three women also help people who contact them on Facebook Messenger choose the best car seat for particular vehicles.

A regular problem Cote sees with car seat installations is that parents have not read the owner's manual.

"That is one of the most important things that needs to be done...and specifically look at the installation section," she said. "One of the most common things we see is that the car seat isn't tight enough."

With each installation taking 20-40 minutes, it's a big commitment for such a small group of volunteers.

When I asked Cote why she's so dedicated, her answer was simple.

"We are really passionate about car seat safety because we see the news, we see all the tragic stories of injuries and worse that are happening because of collisions," she said.

"We really just want to prevent children from being killed."


Jonathan Pinto is the host of Up North, CBC Radio One's regional afternoon show for Northern Ontario and is based in Sudbury. He was formerly a reporter/editor and an associate producer at CBC Windsor. Email