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Q
Is it dangerous to leave my kid’s coat on while he’s in a car seat?

A

Parents will often apply several warm layers to their children in the winter to avoid high fevers and miserable colds. But will protecting your child from harsh New Jersey winters hinder his safety in the event of a car crash?

Most safety officials say that leaving a child’s coat on in a car seat may help you get him in and out of the car more quickly, but it cuts down on his safety in an accident—especially if the coat is heavy or bulky. According to Erica Surman, a certified child passenger safety technician at Beaumont Children's Hospital, parents should remove all the outer layers their child is wearing before buckling them into a car seat.

“You want to get the car seat straps as tight as possible to the child, so that it keeps them secure in the car," Surman says.

The problem is that most parents will buckle the car seat straps over the jacket and tighten them, assuming the child is secure. However, many cold-weather coats (such as snowsuits or puffy winter jackets) will compress in a crash, adding extra give in the straps that be fatal to the child.

How Can You Keep Your Child Safe and Warm for All Car Trips?

  • Always restrain your child in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt—no matter how long the journey.
  • After you remove the child’s coat, turn it around and place it on him arms backwards over the buckled straps.
  • If the child is too small to wear his jacket backward, tuck a blanket over him after securing the seat straps.
  • Tell your children to keep their hats and their gloves on during the ride.
  • Invest in a few thin fleece layers that your kids can wear in the car.

Of course, no matter what the season, it’s important to make sure your car seat is properly installed. Studies have shown that up to 85 percent of car seats are being used improperly, so make sure to check your manufacturer’s instructions in order to keep your children safe.

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