When a child is wearing a warm winter coat, he may feel like he is strapped snugly into the car seat but the fact is the restraining belts are actually dangerously loose.
Now that the mercury has dropped to levels not seen since last winter, you may be thinking hard about keeping your children warm when they’re outside. While the risk of frostbite and hypothermia may be on your mind you may actually be putting your child at greater risk by bundling them up for their next ride in the family car. If you’re unfamiliar with the ‘bulky coat, car seat’ warning, here’s what Consumer Reports has warned parents of:
“As a general rule, winter coats should not be worn underneath the harness of a car seat. A bulky coat under a child seat harness can result in the harness being too loose to be effective in a crash. Here is a simple way to check if your child’s coat is too big and bulky to wear under their harness:
- Put the coat on your child, sit them in the child seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the harness webbing with your thumb and forefinger.
- Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the child seat.
- Take the coat off, and put your child back in the child seat and buckle the harness straps, which are still adjusted as they were when he was wearing the coat.
- If you can now pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.”
Not convinced that these guidelines are worth following, watch this video:
Just 50 Kph in a puffy, winter coat, and a child goes flying right out during a collision. “Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, can compress in a crash and lead to increased risk of injury. Ideally, dress your baby in thinner layers and tuck a coat or a blanket around your baby over the buckled harness straps if needed.” Being properly harnessed means “the straps are coming from at or below the rear-facing child’s shoulders OR at or above the forward-facing child’s shoulders. When buckled, you should not be able to pinch the webbing at the shoulder. The chest clip is at armpit level.”
Winter coats and car seats do not mix! In a crash, winter coats become compressed and allow a child to be ejected from the car seat through the obvious slack in the restraints.
While children may complain about feeling cold sitting in the car, take comfort that it is infinitely preferable to sitting in the warmth of a hospital bed.