Parents trying to keep their children warm during car journeys may unwittingly be putting them in danger, say car seat safety experts have claimed.
Strapping a child into a car seat when they are wearing a bulky winter coat could prevent the safety harness from fitting tightly enough.
The average puffy coat or jacket could add up to 4 inches of slack between the child and the harness. In the event of a collision, this could cause a child to be thrown forwards or ejected entirely from the car seat.
Heavy winter coats can also make it easier for children to overheat or slip their arms out of straps.
The Car Seat Lady, a US based car seat safety advocate, has recently been raising awareness of the potential danger of children wearing bulky coats and snowsuits in car seats. In this video, she demonstrates how thick layers can put children at risk:
Miriam Manary, a senior research in child restraints at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, advised: “We want to see a nice tight fit of the harness to the child’s body. You should not be able to pinch any webbing at the shoulder. And [the] harness clip should be at armpit level.”
She recommends that on cold days the best way to protect your child and still keep them warm is to remove bulky coats before strapping them in, and then use their coat as a blanket on top of the harness.
The Car Seat Lady advises parents to look for products that fit over the baby and car seat itself, so that the five-point harness is not impeded in any way.
Any thick material that comes between the child and their car seat has the potential on put them at risk. Car seat covers and swaddling blankets that do not fit between the child and their car seat – such as the 7 A.M. Enfant NIDO – are a safer way to keep kids warm and cosy in the car when they aren’t wearing a winter coat.