Winter Car Seat Safety Tips

At Jones & Swanson, we encounter victims of Georgia automobile crashes often. Unfortunately, these incidents often involve small children. We've stressed the importance of proper car seat selection and usage in the past, but now that cooler weather has arrived there are more dangers to be aware of.

There are many various types of child safety seats for children of all ages, but this article will focus on those seats that use shoulder restraints to anchor the child in the seat. When a collision occurs, the purpose of car seats is to keep kids from being roughly jolted or thrown from the vehicle. For car seats to be effective, children must be buckled in tightly enough that your fingers cannot fit between the harness and the child. The looser the straps are, the more likely a child will be jerked forward or ejected in a collision.

The dangers associated with children being improperly restrained are somewhat increased as colder weather approaches because children are not outfitted in coats or jackets. Many times parents leave coats or jackets on their children while they are in their car seats because they do not realize the dangers of this action.

There have been news reports describing car crashes in which a child is ejected from their car seat, even though the seat's restraints were still buckled. This can be attributed to the child wearing a winter coat while buckled into the car seat. Because many jackets are bulky and thick to keep the child warm, it adds a large amount of bulk to their bodies. This extra bulk leads to the child restraints being looser, although they appear to be just as tight as usual. When involved in a crash, the fabric of coats and jackets tends to compress, leading to loose straps. Thicker winter jackets and outfits can compress so much that a child can be ejected from the safety seat.

So how do you know whether a jacket is too thick for a child to wear in a car seat? There's a simple way to determine the safety of winter coats and jackets.

  1. Put your child into the car seat while they are wearing the jacket in question.
  2. Fasten them into the harness as you normally would, tightening the harness so that you cannot fit your fingers between the harness straps and the child.
  3. Unbuckle the harness and remove the child from the seat. Do not loosen the straps whatsoever.
  4. Put your child back into the car seat, but without the jacket this time.
  5. Buckle them into the harness again without tightening the safety straps.
  6. Test the safety of the seat. If you can fit two fingers beneath the straps or if you're able to pinch the webbing between your fingers, the jacket is too thick to be worn while your child is in the car seat.

So how should you keep your child warm? There are a variety of methods you can take to keep your child warm without endangering them. For instance, remove your child's winter jacket and strap them into their car seat without it, then turn the coat and put it on them backwards, over the straps so that they are still tight enough. You could also keep a blanket in the vehicle and use it to cover your child. Blankets should be used on the outside of safety straps, though, as they can lead to straps being loose as well. If you are able, you could also warm the vehicle up before putting your child inside.

There are numerous methods to keeping your child safe while riding in vehicles this winter. Not all jackets are dangerous, but it is important that parents know the potential risks with thick winter coats. At Jones & Swanson, we strive to make Georgia roads safer for everyone, adults and children alike. As upsetting as it is to hear about adults being injured in automobile crashes, it is even more heartbreaking when a small child is hurt. For more automobile safety tips and tricks, don't hesitate to contact us today at (770) 427-5498. We also provide helpful information on our website at www.awjlaw.com. Our experience representing victims injured in Georgia car crashes provides insight on safety precautions that others may not be aware of.