A frequently missed danger of child car safety seats rears its ugly head around this time of year. We carefully and snugly buckle a child into a properly installed seat, yet the child is still not safe. What’s the problem? A nice, warm, fluffy jacket.
SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., a non-profit organization dedicated to child passenger safety, issued the following warning: “Clothing worn by children can present compression and harness routing problems. Bulky jackets and snowsuits can compress in a crash and leave the harness slack on a child, allowing excessive movement or even ejection.” To see how much slack can be created by bulky clothing, harness a child with a bulky coat into a seat properly, then, without adjusting the harness, remove the child from the seat. Take the child’s coat off and buckle him back into the car seat. I was amazed at the slack created by the coat.
The question becomes how to keep the child warm, but still safe. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends “Always buckle the baby in the seat first, and then place coats or blankets over the harness”. Yes, that’s one extra step and the child might be chilly for a moment, but it is certainly better than the hazard presented by an improperly adjusted harness.
Make sure your staff knows how to properly buckle children into car seats in inclement weather by including the process in your Transportation Policy. Also, please make sure parents are aware of this important safety information.