During the winter months, a heavy coat is a necessity in many parts of the country. Kids need to be able to stay warm when they are out in these colder temperatures, but they also need to be kept safe while in the car. A very common mistake made by parents is to strap their children into their car seats with the large layers created by winter wear under the straps.
Andy Quinn, a certified child passenger safety technician, stresses that while big, fluffy winter coats might keep your child warm, in a crash situation they can reduce the effectiveness of a car seat.
For a car seat to be the most effective, the safety seat should be attached firmly to the car and then the child attached firmly into it. Winter coats are made from compressible materials. This creates unwanted space between the belt and the child in the seat. During a crash, the force of the strap can flatten the material of the coat. This increases not only the risk of injury but even the possibility of the child being ejected from the seat. Mr. Quinn went on to state that car seats retain a lot of heat, so bulky coats are not really necessary to keep your child warm inside the vehicle. If you are concerned about your child’s comfort, tuck a blanket around the child once they have been buckled into the seat.
Before heading out on a winter drive, test the car seat and its ability to keep your child safe with and without his or her coat by performing these simple steps. With your child’s coat on, strap them into their safety seat and ensure that the straps have no slack. This can be accomplished with a procedure known as the pinch test. With the straps fastened, pinch the strap near the child’s collarbone and take note of how much the strap moves. After this step, remove your child from the seat without making any adjustments to the straps. Then, place your child back into their car seat, this time without their coat. Once again perform the pinch test and take note of how much give the strap has this time. If there is not much discernible difference between the two pinch tests, your child will be safe even with their coat on. On the other hand, if the pinch test yields considerably less give with the child’s coat off, leave it off before you hit the road and cover them with a blanket until the car’s heater has raised the temperature to a comfortable level.
It is important to keep your child warm in the winter but more important to keep them safe all year long. Make sure you know how to properly install a car seat and how to make the proper adjustments to keep your child safe. Using the pinch test will help ensure that both you and your child arrive at your destination safely.