Dangers of winter coats, snowsuits in car seats
With the temperatures here in northern Michigan beginning to drop as we head into the winter season, I have had a number of parents and care givers approach me with the question, “Is it safe to put my child in their car seat with their snowsuit or bulky winter coat on?”
The simple answer is No! We all have good intentions of keeping that child warm due to the cold temperatures outside, but car seats and bulky coats are a very dangerous combination. There are a number of other safer choices to keep a child warm in the vehicle while traveling.
Being a Car Seat Technician, the general rule we are taught in our training is that the bulky coats or snowsuits should not be worn under the car seat harness straps. Imagine yourself wearing a bulky snowsuit and putting a belt on to help how the snowsuit waist in place. Then take that suit off and put the belt back on. How much of a size difference is there? There is probably a few inches difference. Car seat harness straps are exactly the same, except they are there to protect your child during those unfortunate accidents.
The best way to check if your child’s coat or snowsuit is too bulky to wear while in a car seat is to do the following few steps:
* Put the coat or snowsuit on your child and have them sit in the child seat and fasten the harness straps as you normally would for traveling. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the harness webbing with your thumb and forefinger as it goes up and over the child’s shoulder.
* Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the child seat and take off the child’s coat or snowsuit. Then place the child back in the car seat and buckle the harness just as it was when you took the child out of the seat with their coat or snowsuit on.
* If you are now able pinch the harness strap between your thumb and forefinger as it goes over the shoulder the coat or snowsuit it is too bulky to be worn under the harness.
By placing your child in their car seat with a coat or snowsuit that is too bulky, you are creating extra space between your child’s body and the harness strap. If there is extra space in the straps of the seat, this could result in your child’s body being outside of the car seat structure during an accident, which could result in the child being injured.
If you find the coat or snowsuit cannot be safely worn under the harness straps, here are a couple choices you have to keep your child safe and warm in their car seat. After securing your child in their car seat, you can turn their coat around and put it on backwards with their arms through the arm holes, the coat acting like a blanket to keep them warm or simply keep an extra blanket in your car and lay it over your child to keep them warm while traveling.
Ashley Simpson is a Community Service Trooper for the MSP Alpena Post. If you have a question for Trooper Simpson, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave, Alpena, MI 49707.