So it’s winter time and it’s cold, you bundle your kids in to get in the car and now you have to adjust the straps on your child’s car seat to accommodate their bulky coat. Did you know that that adjustment can put your child at risk? As temperatures start to drop, it’s tempting to bundle up little ones when traveling. Although we want kids to stay warm, we also want them to be safe. Putting a winter coat on a child before securing him or her in a safety seat can hinder your ability to get a snug fit when tightening the harness straps. If the straps are too loose the child could be ejected from the safety seat during a crash.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, can compress in a crash and lead to increased risk of injury. Ideally, dress your child in thinner layers and tuck a coat or a blanket around your child over the buckled harness straps if needed.
Experts suggest these tips:
Place younger children in their safety seats dressed in their indoor clothes, without coats or heavy jackets. Tighten the harness straps until you cannot pinch any material. Drape a blanket over your kids to keep them warm, but do not place any part of the blanket under the harness straps. Add a hat or gloves if needed.
Place older children in their safety seats dressed in their indoor clothes. Tighten the harness straps as with younger children. Ask these kids to wear their coats backwards with their arms through the sleeves but not under the harness straps. Hat or gloves can help if needed.
Try this test to see how your child’s coat affects the harness straps:
1. Place your child in the car seat with a winter coat on and tighten the harness straps as usual.
2. Undo the car seat buckle without loosening the harness straps.
3. Take the coat off your child, put him or her back in the seat and buckle the harness straps.
4. Lastly, try pinching the harness fabric together near the child’s shoulders. When the harness is snug, your fingers should just slide off the harness as you try to pinch it together. If you can pinch a bit of harness between your fingers, the straps are too loose.
Chances are after doing this test, you will need to tighten your harness straps to get it as snug as it needs to be to properly fit your child.
With every ride, be sure you take the time to buckle your children up and adjust their harness straps to the appropriate tightness with the chest clip at armpit level. Periodically check your safety seat to ensure it does not move more than one inch at the belt path.