TUCSON, Ariz. - Car seat safety is important to Emily Thomas, not only because she has a P.H.D. in pediatric injury biomechanics and serves as Consumer Reports’ Child Passenger Safety Expert, but also because she’s a mom to two-year-old, Micah. Emily knows that in winter, the extra bulk of a puffy winter coat can make the safety seat harness too loose to properly secure your child in a crash.
“I also do the daycare drop off every morning and I know that it can be really annoying and kind of inconvenient to have to remove their coats to put them into their car seats," says Thomas. "But I will tell it is really important to their safety and we do want them to be as safe as we can in their car seat.”
There’s an easy way to check if your child’s coat is too puffy or bulky: First secure him in the car seat wearing his coat so there is no slack in the harness straps. Then remove the coat and put him back in the seat. If the straps are loose, there’s a problem.
“In a crash, if he was still wearing his coat, his coat would compress, all that puffiness would compress leaving this extra room, which gives him additional room to move and potentially move outside the safety of his car seat which would increase his risk of injury," says Thomas. "We don’t want you to have any injuries do we?”
So how should your child stay safe and warm in the car? Consumer Reports recommends securing your child into the seat and then putting a blanket or coat on top of the harness. For older kids put their coat sleeves on backwards after they are harnessed in.
“I know that it can be challenging, but the sooner you start with these types of safety practices the sooner it becomes the norm," says Thaoms. "Now he’s so used to taking his coat off, that he doesn't even like to wear his coat under his harness, he’s the one who takes his coat off.”
Consumer Reports says that in addition to not having your child wearing a coat in the car, it’s important to always make sure that your child is properly harnessed. You should not be able to pinch any fabric, and their chest clip should always be at armpit level.