I’ve been asked to spread the word about ensuring your children are safe in their car seats this winter.
According to the UK Department of Transport, 60 to 80% of all car seats are used incorrectly, with harness tension being the most common problem. This is a particular issue in winter as it is hard to tell whether you have a good harness fit if your child is wearing a thick coat or snow suit.
For a car seat harness to work properly, the straps need to be tightly strapped against your child’s chest. When a child wears a snowsuit or thick coat, the straps are usually adjusted to the thickness of the coat, not the chest. If the car was in an accident, the coat could compress, making the straps too loose and reducing the level of protection for the child.
To see if a coat is too bulky to be worn while a child is in their car seat, do the 2 finger test:
You might be wondering why you’ve not heard about this issue before. In the USA and Canada, the issue of harness tension and thick coats is a subject that’s been discussed at length and parents in these countries are strongly advised not to let their children wear thick winter coats in car seats. The awareness of this issue has been led by qualified car seat safety technicians, who are shown pictures and videos during their training, of what can happen during a motor accident.
There are examples given to demonstrate the point, like a picture of an infant seat with a snowsuit under the harness. The seat was pulled out of a car that had just been in a crash. The infant was ejected from the seat and the car and was found some feet away from the car, but the snowsuit was left behind in the seat, highlighting the dangers of harness straps that aren’t tightened correctly.
In the UK, with our milder winters, this has perhaps seemed less of an issue in the past, but as our recent extremely cold and snowy winters have shown, parents do face the same problem of how to keep their children warm and safe in the car. Car safety authorities emphasise that it is harness tension that is the issue, not the thickness of the coat. But if you as a parent can’t be sure that you have a correct fit over a thick coat, why take the risk? Take the coat off and be safe.
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