As the air outside gets frosty, it’s time to start thinking about taking your puffy winter jackets out of storage. A bulky coat is great for protecting kids from the weather outside, but when worn in a car seat it can pose a serious threat many parents may not be aware of.
Kids and Cars vice president Sue Auriemma met with TODAY to explain the worst-case-scenario situation. If a child is wearing heavy winter-wear, they’re at risk of coming loose from their car seat, no matter how tightly strapped in they feel. A child-sized dummy wearing a winter coat was buckled into a car seat at an official crash test lab to demonstrate the hazard: When a 30-mph crash was simulated, the force flung the dummy straight from its jacket and seatbelt.
Luckily there are other ways to keep your child warm in the car this winter without compromising his or her safety. Auriemma recommends laying their coat over them once they’re buckled in or using a blanket for the same purpose.
In some cases, your child’s coat may be light enough to leave it on. Consumer Reports recommends testing this by first strapping them in with their jacket on and tightening the harness until you can no longer pinch the strap between your thumb and forefinger. Take your child out of the seat and strap them in again, this time without the jacket. If you’re now able to pinch the belt between your fingers, the harness is too loose to wear with a winter coat.
Kids aren't the only ones who are at risk when they wear their coats under their seatbelts. Adults should also remove their puffy jackets before buckling in. Once they have that step taken care of, drivers can focus on staying cautious and alert on the winter roads.