Thick winter coats are a necessity this time of year in most parts of the country. But while kids need to stay warm, they also need to stay safe. A common mistake parents make in cold weather is strapping their kids into car seats cocooned in winter gear.
Andi Quinn, a certified child passenger safety technician, told KWWL 7 News that fluffy, padded coats might seem beneficial in a crash situation. The reality is winter coats and snowsuits create the last thing you want in a seat harness: space.
A car seat is meant to be firmly strapped to the car, and the child is meant to be firmly strapped into the seat. Since winter coats are made of compressible materials, in a crash the force of the strap against the coat flattens the padding. This creates space between the child and the harness and increases the risk of a child being ejected from the seat.
Quinn told KWWL that car seats retain a great deal of heat, so bulky coats are not required to keep a child warm. Tucking a blanket around the child or putting the coat on backwards should be enough to keep them warm.
Experts told Today's Mom Blog even a bulky sweatshirt or sweater can increase risk of injury. Consumer Reports recommends following these steps to test if a winter coat is too big to fit a car seat:
1. Strap the child in their winter coat into the harness and tighten straps until there is no slack. Use the pinch test to see if the child is properly strapped in. You shouldn't be able to pinch the harness away from the child near their collarbone.
2. Take the child out of the car seat without loosening the straps.
3. Strap the child back into the seat without the coat. Use the pinch test again to see how much space has been created. If the harness is slack enough to pinch its too loose to be effective in a crash.