Winter is a tricky time for parents of children who use car seats. According to safety experts, bulky winter clothing like jackets and snowsuits should not be worn in a car seat. That’s because puffy winter gear creates enough space under the car seat harness to allow children to slip through during a car accident.
Skeptical? Watch the video from an official crash test lab in Michigan. A dummy, which appears to be securely strapped in, flies from its harness in a simulated 30-mile-per-hour crash.
Most winter coats should not be worn underneath a car seat harness. Wondering how to know whether your child’s coat is safe? Consumer Reports offers a nice explanation on how to check if your child’s winter coat is too bulky to use in a car seat.
Since winter is here but the coats are off limits, here are some tips to keep your children warm and safe in their car seats:
- Keep the carrier warm. Store the carrier portion of the car seat in the house so it stays warm. That way, your child will lose less body heat in the car.
- Use hats and mittens. Keep kid’s extremities warm with hats, mittens, and booties. These don’t interfere with the car seat straps and help hold in warmth.
- Layer. Dress your child in a thin, tight-fitting fleece jacket over other flat base layers like a sweater and long-sleeved shirt.
- Cover after. Add a swaddling blanket or slip the child’s coat on backwards after they’ve been strapped in. You can also buy hooded car seat ponchos that drape over the top of the seat. A general rule of thumb is that kids need one more layer than adults to stay warm.
- But cover carefully. Don’t use aftermarket products that could interfere with the car seat’s tested safety operations. Avoid any bags or covers that add a layer of fluff under the child’s body. Shower-cap style covers are best because they don’t obstruct the harness routing or add bulk under the straps.
And remember, keep an emergency bag in your car with extra blankets and winter clothes in case you get stranded on the roadside.