Is your child safe in a car seat while wearing their winter coat?

HOUSTON – As temperatures dip, parents are getting ready and shopping for new winter coats, but little do they know: that warm jacket could be putting their baby’s life at risk. Especially in Texas, where cold snaps are short-lived.

Puffy coats are meant to keep little ones warm, but some public safety experts say they may actually be working against kids and increase their chances of getting hurt during car crashes.

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, ”Cold months require heavier coats, but too much bulk can create extra room in the harness, causing a loose fit, and putting the child at risk for injury in the event of a crash. Choose lightweight fleece layers instead of puffy materials to ensure a snug-fitting harness.”

Science behind puffy jacket dangers

  • Growing bodies are different: heavy heads, weak muscles, and spines made of soft stretchy cartilage (which hardens with age).
  • In a crash, soft spines stretch up to 5 cm (the length of two quarters)
  • Young spinal cords can snap at just 5 mm of stretch (length of 1/5 of a quarter)

Dahlia Rizk is a Child Passenger Safety Technician and she urges parents to not obsess over which car seat they buy, but rather master how to use it the right way. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 90% of parents are using car seats the wrong way. This is particularly true when it comes to children wearing their heavy coats while buckled in their car seat.

“It looks like the harness is on tight. It looks like the harness patch is situated on the chest, but all this comfy fabric is creating space underneath the harness, and what I hear a lot from parents, ‘Oh, I though the comfy coat acts like a bubble and protects them,’ when really the coat can be the difference between a trip to the hospital and going home from a crash,” according to Rizk.

Rizk put her concerns into action and created the “Buckle Me Baby Coat,” which allows you to unbutton the front part while the child is inside the car seat, to maximize safety. Shop buckle me baby coat here.

Another option to keep your child safe and added warmth, cover your child with a blanket, or put a coat on backward over the properly fitted harness.

About the Author:

Traffic expert and What’s Driving Houston reporter, proud Latina, lover of animals, food and our beautiful planet.