While we don’t have the harsh winters in most of Arizona that they do in other parts of the country, our temps still dip down across the state. Busting out heavier jackets can often be a source of celebration for those of us tired of the summer heat.
For your child in a car seat though, a bulky coat can be dangerous.
According to Consumer Reports Test Center, parents can test the coat and straps for safety following these steps:
- Put the coat on your child. Sit the child in the car seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the webbing with your thumb and forefinger.
- Without loosening the harness at all, unhook it and remove the child from the car seat. Take the coat off and put your child back in the car seat. Buckle the harness straps as they were when the child was wearing the coat.
- If you can pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger now, the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.
Why is this important? Puffy jackets can leave two to four inches of slack in the straps, which is enough for a child to slide out of the seat in a crash!
Rather than using these big coats, it’s better to use layers. How many layers to use depends on temps and if you warm up the car ahead of time.
Here are additional options to keep your child warm in the car:
- Put a blanket over them to keep them warm.
- Use fitted blankets approved by your car seat manufacturer. The approval is critical as the manufacturer has crash tested these items with their seat.
- Turn the coat around and put it on backwards over the harness straps. This works well for older children too.
Remember, most crashes occur within six miles of home at a relatively slow speed. Even at 30 mph, the force on a 10-pound infant is more than a 10-pound bowling ball falling from a three-story window. Ensuring passengers are riding safely — no matter what time of year — can mean the difference of life and death.
Lori Stauffer from Scottsdale Fire Department is a Child Passenger Safety Technician. She is a member of SafeKids Maricopa and the Arizona Fire and Burn Educators Association.