Winter coats and car seats can be dangerous combination

Guidelines recommend parents dress their children in warm layers instead of puffy coats while in the car



A child’s safety is paramount to parents. However, 41 per cent of Canadian parents are putting their kids at risk because they believe it is safe to buckle them into a car seat wearing a thick winter coat or snowsuit, according to a 2016 poll conducted by Allstate Insurance Company.

Thick coats make it difficult to strap children into their car seats properly and safely. “In a crash, the harness keeps your child safely inside the car seat. If you add a snowsuit, the bulky padding can squish down in the moment of a crash and make the straps too loose,” says Katherine Hutka, the president of Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada (CPSA).  If straps are loose, the violent jolt of a crash could actually eject the child from the seat.

Hutka says that if you can pinch a fold in the straps above the chest clip, they are too loose. The harness should fit snugly with no slack. Another danger of puffy coats is that they can prevent the car seat harness from being placed correctly on the child’s body. If the harness is properly placed, it limits the forward motion in a crash. If the harness isn’t tight or is in the wrong place, there is a greater risk of injury to a child’s neck, head or spine. Straps should be at or above the child’s shoulders with the chest clip fastened at armpit level.

If you are unsure if your child’s coat is too thick for the car seat, test it by buckling the child in with a coat, and then without one. If the straps are loose, the coat is not safe to wear in the car seat.

Hutka says parents who are concerned about keeping children warm in the car should dress them in thin, warm layers. A fleece pullover, for example, is thin enough to allow car seat straps to be tightened properly, while keeping the child warm. Parents can also lay the child’s coat on top of him or keep a blanket in the car.

A list of CPSA technicians can be found on Transport Canada’s website to provide hands-on help for parents to keep their children safe in the car at: canada.ca/en/services/transport/road/child-car-seat-safety.

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