GREENSBORO, N.C. — When it’s chilly outside, many parents bundle up their kids to protect them from the cold. Consumer Reports says if they’re traveling in a car seat, wearing a coat could actually make them less safe. More now on what to do instead.
As a general rule, Consumer Reports says kids shouldn’t wear puffy winter coats in their car seats because it can prevent the harness from being tightened enough to properly secure them in a crash.
So how do you know whether your child’s coat is too bulky?
Try this home test
First, secure them in the car seat wearing their coat so that there is no slack in the harness straps. A harness is tight if you can’t pinch any webbing at the child’s shoulder.
Then, without loosening the straps, remove the coat and put the child back in the seat. If the straps are loose, there’s a problem.
"In a crash, the puffiness of their coat will likely compress. And that creates additional room between the child and their harness. And that additional room allows the child to move outside the confines of their car seat, which gives them less protection for their head because they may be able to now contact some of the vehicle’s interior surfaces.
Instead, CR suggests using a blanket over your baby’s harness. For older kids, you can put their coats on backward after they’re harnessed in. The sooner you start these safety practices with your child, the more it becomes the norm for them. And, ultimately, that makes it easier for you as a parent to enforce these on your everyday trips," said Emily A. Thomas, Ph.D., of Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports says no matter what season, it’s always important to make sure your child is properly harnessed. You shouldn’t be able to pinch any fabric on the straps, and the chest clip should always be at the armpit level.
The University of Vermont goes further in its recommendation and says adults shouldn't wear a puffy coat in the car either, it too can put too much fabric between the belt and the person.