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Winter Coats and Car Seat Safety

If you have young children, you already know you have to take extra precautions to keep them safe when driving in the car. They have to have the right car seat, the seat needs to be installed correctly and children need to be strapped in appropriately.

Father and child in carseat

During cold winter months, that last step can be a little tricky because of winter coats or other bulky clothing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as a general rule, bulky clothing that includes winter coats and snowsuits should not be worn underneath the harness of a car seat.

In a car crash, fluffy padding causes the straps on a car seat harness to be deceptively loose. Although it may look like your child is strapped in snugly, the puffiness of their coat or thick clothing can add unsafe slack to the straps.

So how do you keep your children warm while keeping them safe in the car? The following are a few tips that can help:

1. Give yourself some time – Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination so that you’re not rushed to put your baby or child in the car and you can focus on strapping them in correctly. This also makes it easier for you to concentrate on driving safely instead of rushing to get to where you are going.

2. Use thin layers – Close-fitting layers are best. For bottoms, think tights, leggings and long-sleeved bodysuits. Then you can add pants and a sweater or fleece shirt. The main thing here is not to add too much bulk.

3. Warm accessories help – Hats, mittens, socks or booties make a big difference in keeping your child warm, yet these accessories won’t interfere with the car seat’s straps.

4. Make sure the straps are snug – If you can pinch some slack in the straps of the car seat harness, then they need to tightened so that they fit snugly against your child’s chest.

5. Use a coat or blanket on top – If you want to provide added warmth to your child, you can cover them with a coat or blanket on top of the harness straps after ensuring he or she is properly buckled in.

6. Be wary of the extras – Don’t use sleeping bag inserts or any stroller accessories in the car seat. Items that didn’t come with your car seat haven’t been crash tested and could interfere with the protection of the car seat and harness in a crash.

7. Bonus safety tip – Pack an emergency bag or kit for your car. Keep some extra blankets, clothes, hats and gloves along with non-perishable snacks in case of an emergency.

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