The Important Winter Car Seat Safety Rule You're Probably Breaking & Why You Must Stop Now

dad buckling baby car seat

This might be one of the most important posts you ever read because it could save your child's life. There was a terrible accident in Maine where a car and pickup truck collided, sending the 6-month-old infant who was in the car flying from the wreckage. The car seat was ejected upon impact, but worse, the baby was also ejected from the car seat. He was found 25 feet from the crash site.


The accident is being investigated, but upon reading the story and learning that the child was wearing a snowsuit and seeing the car seat still buckled up after the crash, I'd guess the ejection of the baby was due to the fact he was too bundled up. Heavy winter coats and car seats do not mix. Many of us do not know this. They compromise your child's safety. Luckily though, this story helps us believe in miracles ... and perhaps could save lives.

The mother, 19-year-old Chynna Blaney, had her son, 6-month-old Gabriel, buckled into his car seat in the center of the back seat -- the safest place. I'm sure she assumed he was secured well. She was driving on Ledgehill Road in Raymond, a road she didn't know well. It was just getting dark. It was reported she was trying to turn up the volume on her GPS when she missed the stop sign and crashed into a truck driven by Angie Horler, 35, who had her two sons, ages 2 and 5, secured in the back seat.

More from CafeMom: 9 Lifesaving Car Seat Rules You're Probably Ignoring

This story could have been even more tragic with all the children involved. Horler turned out to be a hero. When she got out of her truck and saw the car seat thrown from the car she crashed into and no baby, she feared the worst. But then she heard something. She told the Portland Press Herald:

I kept hearing this crying sound, like a baby, but it sounded so distant. I just ran toward a big snowbank thinking, 'Oh my God, there must be a baby somewhere.'

And there was. Baby Gabriel was partially pressed into the snow, his dark blue snowsuit slightly visible about 25 feet from the car seat he was once in. Amidst all that chaos, Horler heard him cry. The snow must have softened his fall. It's truly a miracle.

The car seat, still buckled up

They worked together to keep baby Gabriel warm until the ambulance arrived and they all huddled together -- both mothers and all three children -- in Horler's truck, which wasn't as damaged as Blaney's vehicle.

Horler's sons were uninjured in the accident, but baby Gabriel is in serious condition at Maine Medical Center with a skull fracture. Both moms were treated and released.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into the accident further to understand why the baby was thrown from the car seat. The car seat was brand new. They believe Gabriel was in fact in the seat at the time of the crash. They don't believe he would have survived otherwise. They have initially said it appears to have been properly secured and rear facing in the center of the back seat. The seat was ripped free from the car, still attached to the seat belt. And as you can see from the photo above, it was still buckled, just no baby inside.

car seat after accident
Cumberland County Sheriff's Office

Why he was ejected seems clear to me. His winter coat, his snowsuit, were too bulky. Even a coat that seems thin can add too much bulk under the safety belts. In an accident, that bulk compresses, leaving too much room between your baby's body and the straps. This could cause baby to be ejected from the car seat.

I unknowingly made the mistake of putting my kids when they were infants in bulky coats in their car seats. But then I learned how that wasn't safe, so now we have "car coats," which is just a thin fleece, and I cover my kids, once secured in the seats, with their heavy coats that act as a blanket.

Please take the time to read these two very important articles on car seat safety. Spread the word. Our kids' lives depend on it.

6 Tips for Winter Car Seat Safety

9 Lifesaving Car Seat Rules

Cold Weather Car Seat Safety Tips You Need to Know Now (Infants)

Cold Weather Car Seat Safety Tips You Need to Know Now (Toddlers)

Also, don't forget to read, save, and refer to your car seat manual.

Praying for a full recovery for baby Gabriel. Also hoping everyone removes their children's heavy coats before putting them in the car seat. 

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