Coats & Child Car Seats Do Not Mix

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When the wind chill is so cold that it stings your skin during that short walk to your car, it’s easy to want to bundle up your young children and leave them in their warm coat for the drive. But this time of year, experts warn parents that large winter coats and infant car seats do not mix.

“When you bulk up your kids with these heavy coats, it makes it difficult for them to be properly and securely strapped into five-point harness car seats,” explains Rosy Hyre, a program support specialist for the Safety Store at Riley at IU Health. “Even when it appears a child is fully strapped in, he may not be secure if he’s still wearing a bulky winter coat.”

The puffy winter coats and snowsuits create added space between your child and the five-point safety harnesses, loosening the hold that these straps have on your precious cargo.

“If you are in an auto accident and a child is strapped in wearing a bulky winter coat, she could slip through the harness straps and be ejected from their car seat,” warns Hyre.

You can see for yourself how bulky coats affect car seat straps by doing your own experiment while your car is parked:

  1. Strap your child into the car seat while he or she is wearing a bulky coat or snowsuit (the incorrect way).
  2. Tighten the straps over the coat as you normally would.
  3. Unbuckle and remove your child without loosening the straps.
  4. Remove the bulky coat.
  5. Put your child back into the car seat without the coat (the correct way).
  6. Use two fingers to pinch the webbing of the straps by their collarbone.

“You’ll notice there’s a lot of slack in the harness when you tighten it around a coat,” says Hyre. “This is not safe.”

Instead of strapping a child into his or her car seat wearing a winter coat, Hyre suggests placing a blanket over the top of the child after they’ve been strapped in. Or, once the child is safely secured, place his or her arms through the winter coat backwards.

“The goal is to keep your child warm while also keeping them safe,” advises Hyre. “Always remember to not let anything create unnecessary space between your child and the safety harnesses.”

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