Mommy Minute: The dangers of coats and car seats

It’s a struggle many parents face this time of year; how to keep your kids safe and warm in the car in the winter.  Experts say winter coats should never be worn in car seats. It’s a mistake many parents make with the best of intentions.

Aubrey Childers is a busy mom of three.  In addition to being a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym Linglestown, she runs her kids to various appointments all week long.

“My son has basketball and he has Cub Scouts and he has violin lessons downtown,” Childers said. “So we’re all over the place all the time.”

But one thing she always takes time out of her busy schedule to do is take off her kids’ winter coats before she buckles them into their car seats.

“Because it’s safer,” she explained. “I’ve read and seen too many sad stories and I don’t want to risk it. It’s not worth it.”

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Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman at Heritage Pediatrics in Camp Hill agrees with that philosophy. She calls the issue a major health concern.

“The car seat feels snug, but in actuality, it’s not as tight as it should be,” Dr. Zimmerman said. “The down or whatever material is in there compresses when you’re in a car crash.”

Using a doll, Dr. Zimmerman was able to demonstrate just how many dangerous inches appeared when a child’s jacket was removed.

“In a car crash, all that down is going to compress and you’re going to be left with…slack and your baby is going to be way too loose in the car seat,” she said.

Childers tried the same test on her 4-year-old daughter, Lillian.  Sure enough, there was a large, dangerous gap between her daughter and the straps.

“I’m shocked because her jacket isn’t that thick,” Childers said. “I figured maybe a half an inch at most…because I pulled it really tight. But that’s a couple inches. That could be life or death right there if we had an accident and she had her jacket on.”

So this busy mother will continue to spare that extra time out of her daily routine, no matter the temperature. And she’ll never leave home without warm blankets for her precious cargo.

“And I usually try to warm up the car before I get the kids in,” Childers said. “Even if it’s just five minutes, that helps.”

Another tip from Dr. Zimmerman; bring infant car seats into the house to warm them up or put the coat on the child over the straps in reverse.  She said to remember that it’s not just the material under the straps, but also behind your child that can create problems.

Dr. Zimmerman said the same theory should also apply to older children in booster seats.

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