The Very Deadly Car Seat Mistake Parents Make In Winter

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Now that November is in full swing, temperatures will soon be dipping and parents will be pulling out kids’ winter coats. 

But what if I told you that warm, puffy winter coat poses a serious threat to your child?

When it comes to coats and cars, the danger to kids is real. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP,) warns that winter coats should never be worn underneath the harness of your child’s car seat. This is because bulky clothing can result in the harness fitting too loosely to be effective in the event of a car accident.

According to Consumer Reports, here’s how to check if your child’s jacket is too big to safely wear under their harness:

  1. Put the coat on your child, sit him in his car seat and buckle him into his car seat. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the harness webbings with your thumb and forefinger.
  2. Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the car seat.
  3. Take the coat off, and put your child back in his car seat and buckle the harness straps — which are still adjusted the same as when he was wearing the coat.
  4. If you can now pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger, then the coat is unsafe to be worn under the harness.

If you’ve followed the steps above and your child’s coat is too bulky to be safely worn in a car, the safest option is to remove the coat before buckling up.

While this extra step may seem like a hassle — especially during those rushed morning commutes to school or daycare — it could literally mean the difference between life and death in a crash.

“I can see why this approach could be considered difficult,” Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, medical director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, told Today Parents.

But remember, most crashes occur within 6 miles of home at relatively slow speed. But even at 30 mph, the force on a 10-pound infant is more than a 10-pound bowling ball falling from a 3 story window. Take the time — I’ve seen what can happen in the event of a crash.

The question remains: How do I keep my child safe AND warm in the car during the cold winter months?

Here are a few options for parents to consider:

  • After your child is buckled into the car seat, turn around his coat and put it on backward with his arms through the arm holes. This way, your child is safely secured and the back of the coat serves as a blanket.
  • For older children, simply cover them with a blanket after they’re buckled in.
  • There are also special ponchos that can be purchased for car seats. Like this one, or maybe even this one for older kids.
  • Consider dressing your child in thin layers. A fleece jacket, hats, and gloves can be safely worn to keep your child warm in the car.

To learn more about winter coats and child car seats, read this resource page from the AAP.

One Comment

  1. Gloria

    December 5, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Safety kits are wonderful for my grandchildren

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