6 On Your Side: Consumer Confidence, Cold Weather Car Seat Safety

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(ABC 6 News) – When it’s cold outside many parents bundle up their kids to protect them from the cold. But Consumer Reports says if they’re traveling in a car seat, wearing a coat could actually make them less safe.

As a general rule, Consumer Reports says kids shouldn’t wear puffy winter coats in their car seat because it can prevent the harness from being tightened enough to properly secure them in a crash.

It’s a rule that Natalie Gershtein doesn’t find hard to follow with her son, Jasper.

“He gets hot. So when we put him in the Carseat we really leave him in regular clothes. If he’s cold we’ll throw a blanket over him,” Parent Natalie Gershtein said.

So how do you know if your child’s coat is too bulky? Try this test.

First secure him in the car seat wearing his coat so there is no slack in the harness straps. A harness is tight if you can’t pinch any webbing at the child’s shoulder.

Then, without loosening the straps, remove the coat and put him back in the seat. If the straps are loose, there’s a problem.

“In a crash the puffiness of their coat will likely compress. And what that does is it creates additional room between the child and their harness. And that additional room allows the child to move outside the confines of their car seat which gives them less protection for their head as they may be able to now contact some of the vehicle interior surfaces,” Emily Thomas from Consumer Reports said.

Instead, CR suggests using a blanket over your baby’s harness. While older kids can put their coat on backwards after they’re harnessed in.

“The sooner you start these safety practices with your child, the more it becomes the norm for them. And, ultimately, that makes it easier for you as a parent to enforce these on your everyday trips. I’ve experienced that myself with my own kids. They’ve been putting their coats on, on top of their harnesses, or a blanket on top of their harnesses since they were infants. And now, that’s what they’re most comfortable with,” Thomas said.