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Can an overcoat put the effectiveness of child seats and children's safety at risk?

Can an overcoat put the effectiveness of child seats and children's safety at risk?


When it is cold and wintry it may be that our main priority is to ensure that our child is warm enough in the car. The speed and convenience of putting children directly into their child restraint system without removing their overcoat could lead us into making a big mistake.

This is a subject that has even been covered in the media including Today (NBC) and the Daily Mail. The problem is that a winter overcoat can give us a false idea of how to adjust the child's harness correctly. We know that a harness is correctly adjusted when we can only get two fingers between the child's body and the harness. By wearing an overcoat, the distance increases even if we perform this same exercise.

The volume of the coat makes the harness too slack and we mistakenly think that it is correctly adjusted. This way, the car seat cannot perform correctly and protect the child in the event of an accident. 

This is evident in this video which has already had a high number of views. It shows a mother putting her daughter, who is wearing a coat, in the child seat and adjusting the harness. She then takes the coat off and repositions the child in the car seat. It is then we appreciate the enormous amount of slack generated.

Winter overcoats are particularly thick and therefore do not usually fit snugly to the body. Furthermore, if the coat is made from a potentially slippery material, there is an increased chance of the child not being secured properly in the child seat.

It could be argued that wearing an overcoat is especially dangerous in head-on collisions, when there are more chances that the child can be thrown out of the seat by the impact. It is at that moment when the seat belts activate.

When all is said and done, however much we want to see our children wrapped up against the cold, we need to take the time to remove their overcoats and seat them correctly into their child restraint system. One option is to put a coat over them but it is best that they don't wear anything that could interfere with the correct operation of the seat. The car's own air-conditioning system can be used to establish a comfortable temperature in the car. 

We can also see the difference between traveling with or without an overcoat in the crash test shown in the report by NBC´s Today Show:

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