As colder weather is forecast for this weekend, AAA East Central reminds parents that while warm, puffy jackets can keep children warm this winter, they also pose a threat to their safety when worn underneath seat belts in car seats. Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of children up to age 13, so parents are advised to limit the layers of padding or clothing between a child and their harnesses to protect them as much as possible.
For people of all ages, seat belts are best worn close to the body and have 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. A gap can be just as dangerous as a loose belt and can cause the child to slip through the restraint – or worse -- they can be ejected.
“Harness straps should lay flat and snug against a child’s body, and not have any twists or padding,” said Terri Rae Anthony, safety advisor, AAA East Central. “Parents should buckle children in cars without jackets first, and then cover them with something like a blanket. The seat belt should be snug enough that no strap material can be pinched at the child’s shoulder.”
AAA East Central offers tips for safely buckling a child into their seat during the winter months:
- Warm up the car ahead of time. 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 ahead of time. 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 outerwear is recommended because it is thin enough to work well under seat belts, yet warm enough to keep children 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.
AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 70 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members. News releases are available at news.eastcentral.aaa.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.