While it may seem appropriate to bundle your kids up during the winter months, parents are being reminded that bulky winter coats pose a danger to kids in car seats. Winter coats should never be worn underneath a car seat harness, as the material of the coat can compress in a crash, leaving the harness straps too loose to be effective. Car crashes are a leading cause of death nationwide for children under the age of 13, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three out of four children who die in accidents are not properly restrained in car seats. According to Child Passenger Safety Coordinator for Car Seats Colorado Tim Sutherland, a kid being strapped into their car seats with a coat is one of the more common car seat mistakes parents make in Colorado. Information to help you determine if your child’s coat is too bulky for a car seat is available below.
How do you know if your child’s coat is too bulky?
- Put the coat on your child and strap them into their car seat. Tighten the harness until you can’t pinch any excess strap between your thumb and forefinger (this is the “pinch test” to make sure the harness is tight enough).
- Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the car seat.
- Take the coat off, put your child back in the car seat and buckle the harness.
- Now try the pinch test again — if you can pinch excess fabric on the shoulder strap then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.
Here’s what to do instead:
- For infants and smaller children, put a blanket over the child in the car seat to keep them warm. Do not cover the entire car seat with the blanket — this can restrict air flow and may lead to carbon dioxide poisoning.
- For toddlers and older children, you can put a blanket over the child after they’ve been strapped into the harness, or turn their jacket around and put their arms through it backward to keep warm.
- Be very careful not to overheat your child — a baby bundled up with blankets in the car while the heat is blasting can quickly lead to overheating.