While warm, puffy jackets can keep children warm this winter, they also pose a threat to their safety when worn underneath the car seat harness. Given that car crashes are the number one killer of children, AAA Northern New England advises parents to limit the layers of padding or clothing between a child and their harnesses.
For people of all ages, seat belts are best worn close to the body, and have long been proven to help the body slow down and protect the brain and spinal cord in the event of a crash. When a seat belt is fitted over a puffy jacket, the jacket can compress in a crash and create a gap between the harness and the child. That gap is like a loose belt and can cause the child to slip through the restraint – or worse, they can even be ejected.
“Harness straps should lay flat and snug against the body, and not have any twists or padding,” said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs for AAA Northern New England. “Parents should buckle their kids in cars without jackets first, and then cover them with something like a blanket. The seat belt should be snug enough that you can’t pinch any of the strap material at the child’s shoulder.”
AAA Northern New England offers tips for safely buckling a child into their seat during the winter months:
- Warm up the car before your trip. Passengers won’t feel the cold as much if the car is heated, allowing them to wear seat belts comfortably without a jacket.
- Keep the seat inside. Keeping the car seat inside the house will keep it warm, as well as making it easier to secure the child.
- Wear a thin coat in the car. Fleece outer wear is recommended because it is thin enough to work well under seat belts, yet warm enough to keep your child comfortable.
- Use a backward coat. Secure the child in the car seat without their coat on, and once the child is snugly strapped into the car seat, put their coat on them backwards or wrap them with a blanket. Never fit a seat belt over the blanket. Children can also wear a hat and/or gloves to help keep warm.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 61 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services. Operating 18 offices throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, AAA Northern New England is a not-for-profit, fully tax-paying corporation and serves as an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.