Working with Parents

My experiences of advising parents on child safety

Christmas Trees, Car Seats and Presents!

on December 3, 2012

Christmas Trees, Car Seats and Presents!

“The nights are drawing in and the days are getting colder.

All the hats and gloves are out and our scarves are keeping us warm,

Our cars are frosted with ice, and spider webs glisten in the morning light,

it can only mean that winter is here!

Cold mornings, wind, drizzle, hail and snow, minus temperatures and Christmas shopping, mince pies and chilly toes!

The fun of decorating the Christmas tree with the kids, helping them bake cookies to leave out on Christmas Eve and the excitement of visiting Santa!

A last minute dash to deliver gifts to family and friends whilst Dad buys all his presents for Mum last minute!

Christmas Eve and ET is always on the TV, Mum watches the Corrie Christmas special and the children are full of joy and wonder for the next day!

4am Christmas morning and you awake to cries of “He’s been! He’s been!” and so the day starts!

The morning passes in a cloud of wrapping paper, chocolate and toys,

Then it’s time to wrap up, get in the car and off to Nana’s for a scrumptious Christmas dinner!

6pm and the children are exhausted, time to make your way home on the cold Christmas night and put the Dr Who Christmas special on,

The children dream of their magical day and Mum and Dad reflect on another amazing year.”

Christmas is such a magical and exciting time, especially when you have little ones to make such a fuss of!  The fun of going to visit friends and the joy of seeing family, giving and receiving gifts and eating too many mince pies!  There’s always somewhere to go or someone to see and lots of Christmas parties to attend!

Christmas is unfortunately a dangerous time on the roads too.  From poor weather conditions that we are not used to driving in, drink drivers and drug drivers, to rushing from work to get home for the holidays – they can all cause accidents.  We also tend to take our children out in the car more, to visit family and friends and to go for Christmas shopping and treats, a collision can happen anytime.

Read on for more info on how to protect yourself and your children this Christmas.

How to protect yourself

Be mindful of the amount of alcohol you consume, if you have a Christmas party to attend arrange a lift home with a friend or relative that hasn’t been drinking the night before.  It is quite possible to be over the drink drive limits the next morning.


80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, 35mg per 100ml of breath or 107mg per 100ml of urine.

  • Many people believe having 2 drinks will keep them below the 80mg limit and will be OK to drive.  However, every person processes alcohol at different speeds and the speed at which you process alcohol depends on many personal factors.  There is no way to ‘speed-up’ the removal of alcohol from your system, so it is best to not risk it.  If you do want to drink and are driving the following day, opt for low alcohol drinks – such as 3.5% lager, singles rather than doubles and small, low alcohol glasses of wine.   Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks and stop drinking well before the night ends.
  • Do not drive when under the influence of any drugs, as with drink driving, your reactions, vision and judgement is impaired, no matter how little you have taken or if you are ‘used’ to the drug by taking it regularly.
  • If there is bad weather, leave earlier than you need to and leave plenty of travelling time.  It’s better to be 5 minutes late in this world, than 5 minutes early in the next!

Keep an emergency kit in the car in case you break down.  Ideally, this should include:

  •       Warning Triangle
  •       Tow Rope
  •       Torch
  •       Hi-Vis jacket/Waistcoat
  •       Tyre Inflator
  •       Blankets/Emergency foil blanket
  •       Spare hats, scarves and gloves
  •       Umbrella

If you are going on a long journey, also take the following:

  •       Flask of hot water/Tea/Coffee
  •       Fresh, bottled Water
  •       Food/Chocolate

Remember, if you break down on the motorway or a dual carriageway it is safest to exit your vehicle from the passenger side and wait for the breakdown recovery behind the barrier.  All children; not matter what age, should also exit the vehicle – but leave pets inside the car as they can cause major hazards if they get loose.  Keep your hazard lights and side lights on.

Protecting your children in the car during winter

The winter months are very cold and we don’t want our kids catching a chill, but did you know a puffy winter coat can cause a child seat harness to fit incorrectly?  Meaning the harness may not work properly if you were involved in a collision.

The puffy winter coat is so warm as it traps air in it.  When you leave a child wearing their coat in the car seat that layer of air is still in the coat and creates a gap between the harness and the child, although not visible.  If you were to be involved in a collision, when the child is thrown into the harness the air is forced out of the coat, and the harness is then too loose.


This child doesn’t normally travel with her coat on in the car and this picture is for demonstration purposes only!

As you can see in the above picture, the harness straps are not resting correctly on the child’s shoulders; they are at risk of slipping off.  With the coat on it would also make it very easy for her to take her arms out of the harness herself.

Take note of the harness adjusters on her shoulders and see where they are in the next picture.  The harness is also dipping far below her shoulders and there isn’t much harness left to use.


In this picture (above) the coat has been removed and she is kept warm with a blanket wrapped snug about her.  The beauty of this is that if the child gets too warm they can remove the blanket themselves.

The harness is also at an acceptable level on her shoulders and you can clearly see the harness adjusters that were sitting on her shoulders are now lower on her chest.

This clearly demonstrates how much space the big puffy coat is taking up – if she was in the car and involved in an impact all the air in that coat would be compressed, leaving that much room between her and the harness – which could have devastating consequences.


If you are still worried about your child feeling the cold, strap them into the seat properly; then put the coat on over the harness, as pictured above.  Again, this does not impede with the harness and the child can remove it themselves if they get too warm.

Keep small babies out of snowsuits too – these cause the same problems!  Use thin fleece all-in-ones and jumpers to keep the child warm and a blanket.  Babies can overheat very quickly in the car when they are in a snowsuit.

Many thanks to John for the photographs and the lovely little Jessica for modelling!

Merry Christmas!


2 responses to “Christmas Trees, Car Seats and Presents!

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