If the cold outdoor chill compels you to bundle your toddler in the thickest coat possible to ensure his warmth, think twice before taking him for a ride in the car. Thick coats and other heavy articles of clothing make it harder for the car seat to do its job. While strapped in the car seat, thinner layers are a better option, allowing the safety restraint system the opportunity to protect your toddler if danger strikes.
Car seat manufacturers perform a series of tests to ensure that the child restraint system functions as it should when a child is strapped in. Bulky coats, snowsuits and swaddling blankets have the potential to interfere with the safety mechanism. Although the safety harness is capable of expanding to accommodate the coat, the fabric may compress during impact, causing the restraints to become to loose. Loose restraints put your toddler at risk of injury during a crash.
While a heavy coat is OK for going out into the weather, once your toddler gets into the car -- coats off. This is not to say that she has to remain uncomfortable during her travels. If the car is chilly inside, wrap your toddler’s coat around her after strapping her into the car seat and checking that she is secure. The same goes for snowsuits and blankets -- strap, then wrap.
A Snug Fit
Keep the straps of your toddler’s car seat adjusted correctly to fit his body. Always make certain that the car seat’s harness straps fit snugly but comfortably against his body. Adjust the chest clip so that it rests at armpit level to ensure that the straps remain in place on your toddler’s shoulders. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for making adjustments to the harness straps and chest clip.
If you are unsure if the thickness of your toddler’s coat will have an impact on the effectiveness of her car seat’s safety straps, try this test. Seat your toddler in the car seat while wearing the coat. Secure the harness strap, adjusting it until it is snug enough that there is no slack when you pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. Try the test again without adjusting the length of the harness, this time with the coat off. If there is slack when you pinch, the coat is too thick.