Winter Safety Reminder: Coats and Car Seats

It is a common mistake which could prove deadly: putting your child in a car seat without removing his or her winter coat. With the arrival of the winter season, experts and safety advocates are working to remind parents that even though it may feel like your child is strapped snugly into their car seat, a large or puffy winter coat can result in a catastrophic car seat failure.

How Do I Know if My Child’s Coat or Jacket is Too Large for a Car Seat?

When a winter coat is too big or too puffy, it can leave your child’s car seat harness too loose to be effective in the event of a collision. When checking if your child’s coat creates a hazard, Consumer Reports recommends parents take the following steps:

  1. Put the coat on your child, sit him or her in their car seat, and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any part of the strap between your thumb and forefinger.
  2. Without loosening the harness, unhook it, and remove your child from the car seat. Take off your child’s coat, put him or her back in the car seat, and buckle them back up without tightening the harness.
  3. Try to pinch the straps between your thumb and forefinger. If you are able to pinch any part of the webbing successfully, the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.

Of course, the safest option for your child is to simply not allow any coat to be worn while he or she is in a car seat.

What Are Some Car Seat-Safe Alternative to Coats?

Instead of having your child wear a coat while in a car seat, consider the following:

  • Put a blanket over small children to keep them warm as they ride in their car seat.
  • Use fitted covers that are approved by the car-seat manufacturer for your specific car seat. Approved covers will have been tested with the seat to ensure your child’s safety is not compromised.
  • For bigger children, simply turn the coat around and put it on backward (with arms through the sleeves) after the child is secured in their car seat. This will allow the coat to serve as a blanket resting on top of the harness.

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