"The goal of the harness is to keep a child secure in the car seat if you are in a crash," says Abigail Iffrig, certified child passenger safety technician at St. Louis Children's Hospital. "If he or she is wearing a coat while in the car seat, the thickness of the coat will be compressed by the harness causing him to move within the harness or be ejected from the seat during a crash. The child will be forced to absorb the energy of the crash. A primary safety feature of the car seat will be eliminated by him wearing that coat."
It's easy to determine whether a child's coat is too thick to be worn while in a car seat. While in the house, put the coat on your child and secure him in the harness of the car seat as you normally would. Take him out of the car seat without loosening the harness. Then, put him back in the car seat harness without his coat on, but do not tighten the straps. You'll see how much the coat will compress during a crash and how loose the harness will become.
Another unforeseen danger in infant car seats is the bunting bag that is placed behind an infant and zips up over the car seat for warmth. The thick material behind the baby can interfere with the harness and cause the harness straps to go around instead of over his shoulders and put him at risk.
"Car seats must meet regulated safety standards. Items that can be purchased to accompany those seats do not have such standards," says Iffrig. "Check your owner's manual to see if there are car seat accessories that have been tested and approved for use with your seat. These accessories are usually not tested for safety on every car seat model."
Iffrig says parents should place the coat or a blanket on top of children after the harness is secured to keep them warm during car rides.
Call 314-454-KIDS (5437) to schedule a free car seat safety check at Safety Stop at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Car seats are available for purchase at discounted prices as part of your appointment.
For over 130 years, Children's Hospital and its Washington University School of Medicine physician partners have remained a resource for pediatric health and wellness for the St. Louis region and beyond.
They provide care in every pediatric specialty — from fetal care through adolescence. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report ranked St. Louis Children's Hospital in all 10 specialties, the only children's hospital in Missouri to earn this distinction. Their Level One Pediatric Trauma Center is nationally verified by the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the highest national recognition possible.
Call 314-454-KIDS (5437) to find a pediatrician or pediatric specialist, or to register for a class or event. Learn more at StLouisChildrens.org, member BJC Healthcare.
Find more ways to keep your child healthy and safe, courtesy of St. Louis Children's Hospital.
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