Puffy winter coats could pose danger for kids in car seats

Many parents don’t realize bundling their kids up in coats can be deadly in a crash

As the temperatures continue to drop, many parents are making a potentially fatal mistake by putting their kids in winter coats while they are in car seats.

When a child is wearing a winter coat, it may feel like they are strapped snugly into the car seat, but the straps actually are dangerously loose against the squishy coat.

Kinzie Evrard, a child safety seat expert with Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness, which is funded through the Children’s Hospital Foundation, said the coat keeps the child from being restrained in the event of a crash.

“A child may appear snug in their harness when they are wearing a jacket, but in reality the padding of the jacket will compress during a crash or a sudden stop,” Kinzie said. “The car seat harness will become looser than the caregiver thought, and the child will no longer be snug in the car seat. They can even be ejected.”

Instead, Kinzie suggests taking off the winter coat before putting the child in the car seat. She recommends either keeping a blanket handy in the car or laying the jacket over the child once the child is in the car seat.

Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness

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Check if your child’s coat is too big and bulky to wear under their car seat harness

  • Put the coat on your child; sit the child in the car seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness at the child’s shoulders until you can no longer pinch any of the harness webbing with your thumb and forefinger.
  • Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the seat.
  • Remove the coat; put your child back in the seat and buckle the harness straps, which are still adjusted as they were with the coat.
  • If you can now pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.