As the mother of a child in a 5 point harness car seat, I have been struggling to get my son snugly strapped in while he’s wearing his winter coat. After doing a little research, I quickly learned that it is not safe to buckle little ones into their car seats when they are wearing their puffy winter coats.
You can even do your own case study to see if your child’s winter coat is inhibiting him/her being safely buckled in. First, put your child in the car seat without a winter coat on and buckle him/her up. Next, take your child out and put on that winter coat. Put him/her back in the car seat and try to buckle the straps. Are you able to still secure that 5 point harness without adjusting the straps? Those winter coats (especially the puffy ones) require you to loosen the car seat straps by inches just to get the child comfortably buckled in.
So, what’s the problem? If your child is firmly buckled up in his/her 5 point harness, isn’t he/she safe?
If you are in an accident, or have to suddenly slam on your brakes, those few extra inches you lengthened the harness straps will give your child room to move. In an accident, the puffy coat will compress and your child will be given enough room with the loosened harness straps to possibly fly out of the car seat, or be slammed back and forth within the seat.
Worried your child will be cold without his winter coat? Keep a blanket in the car, or put a lightweight fleece on your child. There is no legislation in New Jersey prohibiting the wearing of winter coats in car seats. However, removing the coat in order to firmly and safely buckle your child into his/her seat is an easy way to keep him/her as safe as possible in the car.