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Cars Seats and Coats Can Pose a Serious Threat to Children’s Safety

Baby in carseat

Traveling with a small child during the cold New York winter is always a challenge: wrangling them into a winter coat or snowsuit, convincing them to keep on mittens and a hat, ensuring they’re warm enough but can also still move, and strapping a squirming toddler into a car seat with all that extra gear. However, there is an additional safety concern which many parents of small children might not realize. Coats can keep your children warm in the car, but they can also seriously threaten your children’s safety.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute looked at the effects that, in the event of a crash, wearing a coat has on a child strapped into a car seat. In a simulated crash occurring at 30 mph, a child dummy who appeared to have been tightly strapped into the car seat prior to a crash slid out of shoulder restraints and flopped over violently. This is due to the fact that, during a crash, bulky outer garments such as down jackets will compress. While it may feel as though your child is tightly strapped into a seat while wearing a coat, the compression of winter jackets can leave three to four additional inches of slack between your child and the straps. This may not seem like much, but it’s enough to allow a child to partially or fully slide out of their car seat in the event of an impact. In fact, leaving shoulder restraints dangerously loose is one of the leading mistakes that parents make when buckling children into car seats year-round.

Safety experts suggest you test to see if your child is safely restrained during car trips. While your child is wearing their winter coat, strap your child into their seat as you normally would. Then, without adjusting the shoulder restraints from how they were positioned while your child was in a coat, strap the child into the seat while wearing only snugly-fitting, thinner layers. You may be surprised to find how much more slack the shoulder straps are without the coat. Instead, be sure that the straps are sufficiently snug while the child is in thinner layers that you cannot fit more than two fingers under the straps at your child’s collarbone, and keep the restraints at that level of snugness. If that means that your child does not fit in the restraints with their winter coat on, then remove the coat and instead drape a blanket over them, or try to find a snug fleece jacket that will keep them warm in the car without adding a great deal of bulk. This will help give your child the best possible chance of avoiding injury in the event of a winter car accident.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a Hudson Valley crash, contact the experienced and compassionate Hudson Valley personal injury lawyers at Rusk, Wadlin, Heppner & Martuscello for a free consultation on your claims, at 845-331-4100 for our office in Kingston, or 845-236-4411 for our Marlboro office.

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