Car Seat Mistakes in Winter: How to Avoid

Are you driving your children toward danger? By Hope Daniels and Marissa Laliberte , Reader's Digest Sure, you wouldn’t dare let y...

Are you driving your children toward danger?


By Hope Daniels and Marissa Laliberte, Reader's Digest

Sure, you wouldn’t dare let your tot brave freezing temps without bundling him or her up, but research shows that wearing a coat in a car seat is a major safety risk. “There is a 75 to 95 percent misuse rate with clothing and car seats,” says Cherlyn Jenkins, certified passenger safety technician, CPST and developer of the Cozywoggle, a new coat to keep young kids safe while strapped in their seats.

A TODAY show segment compares a normal crash test dummy with one wearing a puffy coat—and the results are terrifying.

The crash test “baby” wearing normal clothes stays in its car seat after a collision. The one wearing a big winter coat didn’t fare so well though. That dummy went flying out of its seat, leaving its puffy jacket behind.

Winter coats are so warm because the air between the feathers or fibers acts as insulation. That’s a good thing in frigid outdoor temperatures, but it also leaves a lot of air space between your baby and his or her car seat. If there were a car crash, the harness could be too loose to keep your child secure, according to Consumer Reports.

“Bulky coats and clothing often require the harness to be loosened to accommodate the attire,” Jenkins explains. “The harness will appear to be tight, but the crash forces during an accident cause the bulky clothing to compress leaving extra space between the child and the harness.” (There is no age limit when it comes to seat protection: Experts say adults are also more secure when buckled in without their puffer coats.)

To test if your kid’s coat is too bulky, strap your baby into the car seat, coat and all. Unstrap—but don’t loosen—the harness, then take your kid’s coat off. When you strap your child back in jacket-free, you shouldn’t be able to pinch the strap. If you can, your kid wouldn’t be secure wearing that puffer jacket.

As most parents know, getting your child into a car seat is a time-consuming chore all by itself, nevermind when you have to get them out of a coat and you’re freezing yourself. Jenkins recommends these tips for a busy parent to keep their child protected and warm while traveling:
  • Remove the coat. Secure your child in the car seat without a coat. Then place the bulky coat backward on the child on top of the straps.
  • Use a blanket. Layer infants with blankets over fastened car seat straps.
  • Slim down. Use a sweater or windbreaker that’s thin enough that can be used in the car seat without making adjustments to the harness.
  • Invest in gear specifically designed for winter wear and car seat travel. For example, try a car seat poncho for babies and toddlers.
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Home Magazine: Car Seat Mistakes in Winter: How to Avoid
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