Blog: Car seats & hockey gear: not a safe mix
We want to begin by saying that we know that we are in the Atlantic Bubble and our region is incredibly lucky that so many minor sports teams, including hockey, are able to happen as we head into our first full winter of the pandemic. The rink looks a bit different now, with new guidelines that have reduced or eliminated change room space and the number of people allowed at the rink during practices and games.
Child Safety Link has heard from parents who are concerned with these changes and how Hockey Canada’s recommendation for players to “arrive at the rink ready to play” will affect their children. Many families have been putting on the full gear at home and then travelling in the car to get to the rink. Here are the concerns from two hockey moms of young players who contacted us:
Jennifer: As a hockey parent of a younger child (under 9) I have seen a number of children arrive at the arena in almost full hockey gear. I know these children are not safely secured in their car restraint system. When approached, most parents don’t realize that this is an issue.
MaryI: We are very lucky that we are able to get our kids back doing what they love but it’s so very important to me to have kids safe during the car ride to the rink. Believe me, I know the inconvenience of not having them dressed or not be able to use the dressing room: I have a very busy 5 year old son who is not yet able to manage his gear without our help.
In response to these concerns from parents of young hockey players, Child Safety Link would like to share these answers to the most common questions:
Question: Is it safe to wear hockey gear in the car seat or booster seat?
The short answer is no.
In order for a harness or seat belt to do its job, it needs to fit snugly against the body. Bulky hockey pants and padding prevent the harness or seat belt from fitting properly – which may mean that the belt is no longer correctly placed on the child’s body. The added bulk may also introduce slack which creates a risk that the child could be ejected from his or her seat in the case of a collision.
This photo demonstrates how a car seat harness or seat belt may no longer fit properly when a child is dressed in bulky sports gear. This boy can’t get the chest clip closed.
What it boils down to is this: hockey gear is designed to keep your child safe on the ice. Car seats and booster seats are designed to keep your child safe in the car. In order to keep your child safe in the event of a sudden stop or crash, your child’s car seat harnesses or seat belt must fit snug to their body without gear.
Question: So what can parents and caregivers do to make the transition from car to ice easier?
Here are some tips parents have shared with us for how they keep their kids safe in the car, and then get dressed as quickly as possible at the rink:
- Wear base layers in the car
Put on the thin, under-layers before leaving the house. Choose to wear clothes that won’t interfere with the harness or seat belt. Is your player able to ride safely with shin pads in place?
Some kids are able to drop their pants down to their shins in the car, buckle up, and then pull them back into place at the arena. Consider doing a test run to figure out what works for your child and for you.
Photo: It works for this hockey player to have his hockey socks on (blue) and just needs to pull his hockey pants on at the rink.
Keep a small blanket in the car to keep your child warm and cozy as you travel to and from the rink. The blanket can be draped over the child once the harness/seat belt is properly buckled.
This is what our two moms have said works for them:
Jennifer: Currently we are changing our daughter in the back of our SUV as the weather so far has been cooperative. When it turns colder or is raining, I’m not sure what we will do, but it won’t be getting dressed at home. We enter the arena and put her skates, helmet and gloves on in the arena’s designated area.
MaryI: It’s taken some time to adjust but we have made this our new norm with our son: we put his under gear and shin pads on him at home and then put the rest of the gear on him in the car when we get to the rink. This works for us because we made it a routine for our little guy.
- Put skates on at home
It may work for some families to lace up the child’s skates before getting in the car. A good pair of skate guards will help protect your car upholstery and the skate blades. Make sure to help your child get in and out of the car with skates on, and then from the car to the arena.
- Organize your car to make onsite dressing as easy as possible
Is there enough room in your vehicle to dress a player in the top layers while still in the car? If you drive a vehicle with 3 rows, you may have enough room to fold down some seats. Consider stowing or removing a seat if you are able to make more room in the vehicle to get dressed. You can also bring along a small rubberized mat for your child to stand on next to the car while slipping in and out of the bigger pieces of gear before and after rink activity.
- Keep an organized hockey bag
Knowing exactly where things are located in the gear bag will speed up the process. Involve your child in this process, especially if they are starting to get dressed independently.
- Practice with your child
Teach your child to put on their own gear. Your child might surprise you with what they can do on their own to help speed up the process. Figure out a routine that works for them and you.
Photo: Another option is to just dress in the base layers for the car with flipflops or boots that will be easy to slide off and on.
- Never sacrifice comfort and convenience for safety
We know that this is time consuming and annoying. We have heard from parents that this is difficult and we know it’s only getting colder out there.
We also know that these extra steps are necessary to keep you kid safe in the car. Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for children in Canada and a properly used car seat or booster seat can reduce the risk by up to 71%.
Reach out to other families, coaches, and league leadership for support to make sure you are doing what you can to help kids arrive safely to the rink together. You are a team and working together will make all the difference to help your children thrive during this new normal. Together we can keep kids safe on and off the ice.
For more information on how to make sure your child’s booster seats and seat belts fit properly, visit www.childsafetylink.ca .
Thank you to Vancouver Island Car Seat Technicians for their support of our article. Find their blog post here: https://vicarseattechs.com/2020/hockey-gear-car-seats/