During cold winter months, parents want their children to be safe and warm, especially during car rides. However, these concerns could be leading parents to make a crucial mistake when strapping their little ones into their car seats. A report by the Today show has demonstrated the danger of children wearing puffy winter coats while strapped in their car seat. What they learned: the soft layers of the coat may work against the protective restraints of a car seat.
“Anything between the child and the straps is compressible,” Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, medical director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, told Today. “It’s like having space, which creates more risk that the child could thrust forward into the straps in the event of a crash.”
Troubling Test Results
A test conducted in a crash test lab in Michigan provided disturbing evidence of the danger. A child dummy dressed in a winter coat and strapped into a car seat was shown being thrown through the car seat restraints, almost completely out of the seat, in a 30 miles-per-hour (mph) crash. Meanwhile, a child dummy strapped in snugly without a winter coat remained securely seated in the same crash conditions.
Sue Auriemma, VP of nonprofit Kids and Cars, provided another demonstration of proper car seat safety to Rossen. First, she had Rossen strap his young son into a car seat with a winter coat and tighten the straps. Next, Auriemma had him remove the child, remove his coat, and place him back in the seat. The result: noticeably loose and insecure straps that would never hold the child in place during a crash.
How to Avoid Disaster
Crash test lab head Miriam Manary recommended parents perform a “pinch test” when securing their child’s car seat restraints. “We want to see a nice tight fit of the harness to the child’s body,” Manary told Today’s Jeff Rossen. “You should not be able to pinch any webbing up at the shoulder, and [the] harness clip should be at armpit level.”
Manary went on to recommend against children wearing winter coats altogether when strapped into car seats.
But what about keeping your child warm while they’re riding in the car? Auriemma has a few simple solutions. “Instead of putting the coat on him, you can put the coat over him to keep him warm, or you can use a blanket,” she said.
As parents shuttle their little ones around this winter, they should practice these important safety tips ensuring safe and happy travels.