Danger can come from any direction, suddenly and unexpectedly. How many parents might suspect that their toddler, seemingly securely strapped into the seat in the car, could be in more danger than normal because they are wearing a nice warm winter coat?
It’s natural that with the mercury down around freezing, mums and dads want to keep their offspring as protected as possible when they’re outside. The problem is that although the risk of frostbite and hypothermia may be on parents’ minds, children may actually be at greater risk if they are bundled up for a ride in the family car.
Why? When a child is wearing a warm winter coat, it may seem like they are well strapped in but actually the restraining belts can be dangerously loose.
If you’re unfamiliar with the “bulky coat, car seat” warning, read this warning by Consumer Reports, an independent non-profit organisation formed in 1938:
“As a general rule, winter coats should not be worn underneath the harness of a car seat. A bulky coat under a child seat harness can result in the harness being too loose to be effective in a crash.
“Here is a simple way to check if your child’s coat is too big and bulky to wear under their harness:
• Put the coat on your child, sit them in the child seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the harness webbing with your thumb and forefinger.
• Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the child seat.
• Take the coat off, and put your child back in the child seat and buckle the harness straps, which are still adjusted as they were when he was wearing the coat.
• If you can now pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.”
At just 50km/h in a puffy, winter coat, a child can go flying right out in a collision. “Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, can compress in a crash and lead to increased risk of injury. Ideally, dress your baby in thinner layers and tuck a coat or a blanket around your baby over the buckled harness straps if needed.”
Being properly harnessed means “the straps are coming from at or below the rear-facing child’s shoulders OR at or above the forward-facing child’s shoulders. When buckled, you should not be able to pinch the webbing at the shoulder. The chest clip is at armpit level.” Winter coats and car seats do not mix. In a crash, winter coats become compressed and allow a child to be ejected from the car seat through the obvious slack in the restraints.
Budapest private health-care provider FirstMed adds that safety and well-being come first: while children may complain about feeling cold sitting in the car, take comfort that it is infinitely preferable to sitting in the warmth of a hospital bed.
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