Winter is here and parents are asking the important question that comes around this time of year: Should kids wear puffy coats in car seats?
The winter jackets that protect our children from the elements can, in fact, make a car ride more dangerous.
Why Coats Aren’t a Good Idea in Car Seats
The fluffy lining of your child’s winter coat keeps them safe when temperatures drop—but it’s the very reason that coats and car seats don’t mix. The bulky insulation is light and air-filled, creating a buffer between the car seat’s safety harness and your child’s body. With the force of impact of a collision, that extra space will be squeezed flat and make it very easy for your child to slip out from under the harness.
Even if the child is not thrown from the car seat, the extra room created by the coat’s insulation will still allow a broader range of motion—instead of holding your child securely against the back of the car seat. This will significantly increase the chance that your child will suffer a head, chest, or neck injury in the event of an accident.
Before putting your kid in a child safety seat, remove any bulky outerwear that prevents the car seat’s safety harness from resting firmly and securely against your child’s chest. Winterwear such as down jackets, puffy coats, insulated ski wear, snowsuits, loose blankets, and any other thick or insulated clothing item should not be worn in a car seat.
If you’re not sure whether a coat is too thick for a car seat, you can perform a simple test. Place your child in the car seat wearing the coat and adjust the straps to fit comfortably over the outerwear. Then take your child out of the seat, remove the coat, and put them back in the car seat wearing their normal clothing. If you can fit your hand under the harness strap, the coat is too thick for the car seat.
Read on for tips for keeping your child both safe and warm while traveling in a vehicle during the winter months.
Tips for Winter Car Seat Use
Every parent knows how difficult leaving the house can be in the winter. On top of the adverse conditions that can threaten safe travel, there are the added challenges of bundling our kids against the temperatures and forcing them into chilly vehicles. And when the allure of snow angels, sledding, and hot cocoa beckon, accomplishing any daily task can be an uphill battle.
Here are a few tips for keeping your child safe, warm, comfortable, and protected during winter car travel.
- Take time to warm your car up before putting your infant or child in the vehicle.
- When not in use, store your child’s car seat (or removable carrier portion) in the warmer temperatures of the house.
- Dress kids in thin, warm layers. Onesies, leggings, bodysuits, fleece underclothes, and other close-fitting layers are appropriate for use in a car seat. Hats, gloves, and warm footwear should also be worn, and won’t get in the way of car seat safety.
- Tuck your child’s coat or a blanket over the outside of the car seat harness. Placing a warm cover over—rather than under—the harness will prevent it from causing problems if a crash occurs. Be careful when covering young children with loose blankets, especially infants who aren’t able to reach up and remove a cloth that has covered their face.
- Double-check the harness for snugness before driving. A car seat’s straps will fit differently over winterwear than over the clothes your child wears in the summer. Make sure the straps are even and adjusted to a fit that’s suitable for your child’s outfit. You shouldn’t be able to pinch any harness slackness at the shoulder areas.
- Keep an emergency preparedness kit in the trunk of the car. Make sure to include nonperishable, child-appropriate snacks and warm clothing and blankets. Pack as if you and your child will be stranded outside for a long period of time—but, whenever possible, only drive with your child when the roads are clear of snow and there is no threat of icy surfaces.
Car Seat Safety in Kentucky
If you’re driving with a child in the car in the state of Kentucky, there are certain laws you must follow to ensure that young travelers are secured adequately. Depending on the age and size of the child, a different vehicle safety restraint will be required.
The Kentucky State Police provides information on the “4 Steps for Kids” to follow for car safety:
- Infants. Infants should always ride in rear-facing, infant-appropriate car seats in the back seat from birth to at least one year old and at least 20 pounds.
- Toddlers. Toddlers can graduate to forward-facing car seats placed in the back seat. This type of car seat should be used from age one to age four and 20 to 40 pounds.
- Young Children. Children between age four and age eight and above 40 pounds to at least 57 inches should use a booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
- Children Over Eight. Beginning at age eight or older, or taller than 57 inches, children can use car seat belts without an additional child restraint. All children 12 and under should ride in the back seat.
The Law Office of Todd W. Burris has published a Kentucky car seat safety guide for parents and guardians. Please refer to this article for more complete information about child car seat safety in Kentucky.
At our personal injury law firm, we believe that education and prevention can help keep our roads safer—for the youngest passenger, for the oldest driver, and for all of us in between. Even a simple action like removing a child’s coat before putting them in a car seat can be an important step in averting a preventable injury. If you have any additional questions about vehicle safety or what to do following an accident, a car accident attorney from our office is available for a free consultation to discuss your case.