The winter car seat safety mistake most parents don’t know they’re making

Baby, it’s cold outside — but does that mean you should bundle your little one up before you put her in her car seat?

 The simple answer, is no. It turns out that while it may seem like your child is securely and tightly strapped into her car seat, a winter coat can be a major hazard that can result in a life lost. And while more and more moms and dads are aware that this is a risk, there are still oodles who aren’t.

While winter coats are crucial for staying warm during the winter, their natural big, bulky material are giving parents a false sense of security. A crash test video on TODAY illustrated exactly why — a 30 mph crash was simulated, and we all watch in horror as the toddler-sized test dummy is basically catapulted out of the seat.

The issue is the bulk of the coat. While it may seem to be a pretty solid clothing item, those puffy layers actually compress down to basically nothing in the event of a crash. So when the breaks of a car are slammed or the car hits something, the child’s seat straps will press down the puff of a winter jacket, allowing a toddler to slip right out. This can then cause serious internal injuries or even be life-threatening.

Carting around kids in the winter is tough. You don’t want them to be cold, but it can sound like an enormous hassle to take off and put on a winter coat just for a trip to the store.

But you need to. The good news is that it can be much easier than you’re imagining. For example, once your child is securely buckled in, turn the coat around, help your child put his/her arms through the holes, and bingo — backwards coat to the rescue. Or try a car seat poncho that allows you to strap them in over their actual outfit, and the poncho goes over everything. You can also dress your child in a thin, yet warm layer (think North Face) and keep a blanket on hand for going to and fro in the cold. Don’t forget mittens and a warm hat, and you won’t be tempted to just strap them in while they’re all puffy.

Keep this in mind: No winter coats, straps snug, chest clip at armpit level. Every child, every time. The more we know, the better we do.

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