Why winter coats and car seats don’t mix

Why winter coats and car seats don’t mix

When you’re getting ready to leave the house on a chilly winters day, the natural thing to do is to add lovely cosy layers to your baby or child; and why not? If you’re off out on a walk to the park or a bike ride then you absolutely need to make sure everyone is going to be warm enough. If you’re getting into the car, however, then you need to think again!

The harness on a child seat is designed to fit snugly against the body to help spread the forces created during a collision across the strongest parts of the body, the shoulders and pelvis, to ensure maximum protection and reducing the risk of serious injury. When you add a puffy coat, the harness may appear to be fitting tightly but its actually creating a space between the child and harness which could have devastating consequences! This is because winter coats are designed to trap air to insulate your body from the elements but, in an accident the harness will compress the padding and air in the coat, potentially leaving enough space for the child to slip from the harness completely. There are other fitting issues too as because of the extra space created, it can be easier for a determined child to escape from their harness and can also cause them to overheat once the car is warmed up.

Ninja Tips

Clearly, we don’t want anyone to be cold and uncomfortable either so here are a few useful tips you can try to keep your children warm and safe in the car;

  • Keep blankets by the door or in the car ready to wrap around your little one once they’re secured into their seat

  • Warm the car up a little if possible before its time to depart

  • Put the child’s coat on them backwards once strapped in which makes it safe and easy to remove should they feel too hot - this is a better option for older children

  • Add thin, but warm layers of fleece, preferably without hoods as these can also end up pushing their head forwards causing it to fall forwards if they drop off to sleep and can make it difficult to get a good fit with the harness pads.

  • Although thin, also avoid slippery rain jackets and puddlesuits as these could cause the harness to not grip sufficiantly and may be easier for the child to wriggle out of the harness.
  • Also remember that the Car Seats themselves have insulting materials inside them which as well as helping to absorb energy from an impact, will help to keep your child cosy - which is often why you’ll find that some children will get quite sweaty in their seats when the weather is warmer

Here is a short picture story showing how much space can be left between your child and the harness if they wear a coat

coat in car seat dangerousHere we have George nice and snug in his seat with the harness pulled as tight as it will go against his coat.
harness too loose The coat has now been removed but the harness has not been adjusted - see how much space there is left if the coat had been compressed!
safe tight harness The harness has now been tightened so there is no excess slack left, and so it is now safe.

If you are unsure whether their jacket is too thick, try this

  1. Fasten them into their seat with the jacket and tighten the harness
  2. Undo the harness taking care not to loosen it first
  3. Remove their jacket
  4. Place them back in the seat and buckle the harness while still not changing the tension
  5. Check whether you can ‘pinch’ any slack in the harness, if you can then they need thinner layers
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