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Safety Information

Are you putting your child at risk?
Bulky winter jackets are dangerous!  

By having your child wear a regular coat or snowsuit in the car, you could be putting him/her at risk for injury!  Winter coats are dangerous in the car seat because they have too much bulk and trapped air between your child and the car seat straps. If the straps aren't snug, then the child could be injured or even ejected from the car seat in a crash!  (See more below!)

Which do you want for you and your child?


Bulky coat keeps straps from being tight.                     Open chest allows straps to fit snugly.
Unable to regulate the child's temperature.                 Easy to pop arms out or flip down blanket.
     Hat, mittens, boots, snow pants, and coat.              Coat with attached blanket--no extras needed!
           Time, tears, and trauma every time.                Dressed with ease and can be covered completely.

Car Seat Safety Technicians recommend a test to check the safety of your winter gear (Pictures below):

  1. Put the child's coat on and put them in their car seat.  Make sure and tighten the car seat straps.
  2. Take the child out of the car seat, take off their coat, and put them back in their car seat.  Do not adjust the car seat straps this time.
  3. Try and pinch the straps at the shoulder.  If the straps are still snug (if you can't pinch them at the shoulder) it is safe for them to wear that coat in the car seat.  If you are able to pinch the straps, the child shouldn't wear the coat in the car seat because it's possible in a crash that the coat will compress and the child will be forced against the car seat straps--slowing their ride-down time.  (See below).

    This Winter Coat doesn't pass the test.            ****The Car Seat Coat passes the test!****



This coat is another example of one that has a lot of bulk so it isn't possible to get it snug enough to pass the test.  You can see how there is room to put a whole hand under the straps even after several attempts to tighten them!

Here are some tips and explanations from Car-Safety.org and the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).  Check out their websites for much more info!

Car Seat and Car Seat Straps:  Making them tight enough to be safe.

Grab your carseat at the base, where the seatbelt goes.  The base should not move more than an inch (1") side-to-side or front-to-back.  Some movement at the top of the seat is normal, though a tether will reduce this movement in forward-facing carseats.

Ride-Down Time.  Child Passenger Safety advocates often stress the importance of "Ride-Down Time."  This term simply refers to the time it takes for a person to come to a complete stop in a crash.  This is important because the total force on the passenger increases with both the weight of the person and with the speed they were traveling before the crash.  On the other hand, the total force on the passenger decreases significantly as the time it takes to stop increases.  While we have often have no control of the speeds involved in a crash, we can do some things to help increase the time it takes for a passenger to come to a stop.  As mentioned earlier, in a frontal crash the vehicles are often traveling in opposite directions at high speeds.  When they crash, both vehicles stop very suddenly, in a small fraction of a second.  Even a slight increase in this stopping time can reduce the risk of injury considerably.  This is perhaps the most fundamental concept in keeping passengers alive in a crash.

Take the case of a child in a carseat.  Ideally, you want the child coupled as tightly as possible to the harness system and carseat, and the carseat coupled as tightly as possible to the vehicle with the seatbelt or LATCH system.  When you do this, the child gains all the benefit of "ride-down time" provided by the crushing frame of the vehicle in a crash.  With a loose installation of any kind, the child gets less ride down time and suffers a more severe crash into the harness system.  The analogy is that a tight installation is like catching an egg when you "give" backward with your hand to prevent it from breaking.  A loose installation will be more like holding your arm and hand rigid when you catch the egg.  The egg will splatter in your hand if you don't give, much like what happens to the internal organs of a person when they are flung into a loose seatbelt or harness.  By giving with your arm, you cause the egg to slow down gradually, increasing its ride-down time.  Vehicle frames, advanced seatbelts and airbags are all designed to help passengers slow down more gradually.  Carseats themselves are not designed provide much ride-down time; their main functions are to prevent ejection and to allow the child to be coupled tightly to the vehicle so the frame can provide the necessary ride-down time.

How tight should my harness straps be?

Harness straps should be snug with no slack, but not so tight as to be uncomfortable.  The top straps should be on the shoulders, and some prefer to say that you should not be able to take a pinch or get more than a finger in between the shoulder and the strap.  The lower straps in a 5-point harness should be fairly tight across the thighs (not on the tummy).  A tight harness can prevent ejection, and also can increase the ride-down time to reduce the chance of crash injury.

Does it matter if my harness straps are all twisted?

Yes.  The more the straps twist, the less area of strap is available to restrain the child in a crash.  This means more pressure will be applied to the child, and could result in burns or more serious injury.  It is a good idea to untwist the straps after each use.  Some models have straps that do not twist.

Where should the chest clip (harness retainer tie) be on my child?

It should be across the chest, at armpit level.  It should not be on the neck or tummy.  This clip itself does not protect during a crash.  Its job is to keep the harness straps in the correct position before a crash.

Traveling Safely with Children: The Basics http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/childps/newtips/pages/Tip1.htm

Traveling safely with Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers:  http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/childps/newtips/pages/Tip2.htm

Is the Child Safety Seat Secure in the Vehicle?: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/childps/newtips/pages/Tip4.htm

Important Safety Reminders: Using the Car Seat Coat alone does not keep your child safe, you still need to follow the instructions that came with your child safety seat and vehicle owner's manual.  The instructions may seem severe (nothing bulky  between your child and the straps, the seat shouldn't move an inch, straps across the shoulders and hips), but they are recommended to prevent serious injury or death.  Please take steps to make sure you are buckling your child correctly and that the seat is properly installed.   If you have questions regarding your car seat, you can contact your area SAFE Kids organization, hospital Car Seat Safety Tech, car seat manufacturer, or the forums on Car-Safety.org. 


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