When a winter coat can be dangerous

We love our puffy jackets and we love to bundle our children up on chilly days. But it turns out that they (and we) are far less securely buckled when that seatbelt or car seat is strapped across that mountain that is the puffy winter coat.

By some estimates, it can add an average of four inches of slack to a child’s harness straps.

It might be useful to compare that to wearing pants that are four inches too big in the waist — except with worse results.

Winter coats often trick parents into believing their child’s harness straps are tight enough,” said Jennifer Northway, director of adult and pediatric injury prevention at University Health System and a certified child passenger safety technician. “Slack in the harness straps could cause a child to be hurt in a crash. With more slack in the straps, a crash could throw the child into the seat in front of them, or eject them from their seat.”

Consumer Reports did a story explaining how to check whether your child’s coat is too bulky to be safely worn under a harness. Parents should try this simple test to make sure their child is protected.

  • Put the coat on your child, put them in the child seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness 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 child seat.
  • Take the coat off, and put your child back in the child seat and buckle the harness straps, which are still adjusted as they were when he was wearing 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.

Keep in mind, Ms. Northway said, if a child can get out of the harness without it being loosened, the straps are not tight enough and they could be hurt in a collision.

To stay warm, kids can wear their coats backwards over their arms once they’re strapped in, while a soft blanket can keep babies warm in their seat.


Photo by lenkafortelna/pixabay