At one time, father Jared Gruhl thought he was doing the right thing by putting his daughter in her car seat while wearing a heavy winter jacket during the colder months of the year.
As he told WHAM:
“Sometimes the cars not warmed up so they’re going to whine and cry because it’s cold.”
However, it wasn’t until Gruhl became a firefighter that he learned just how dangerous putting a child in their car seat with a thick jacket on could be.
Gruhl’s colleague and fellow Henrietta Fire District firefighter, Tim Lewis, told WHAM:
“It can be as extreme as being fatal. We’ve had a nasty crash on West Henrietta Road, a three-year-old got very injured. Broke both of her femurs from not being properly installed in the car seat.”
But why is a heavy jacket to blame?
Well, according to Lewis, the jacket can affect how well the buckles of a car seat work. He explained to WHAM:
Puffy coats can create loosened straps, and in an accident, that could cause a child to slip from the safety belt and even be thrown from a vehicle.
Now Gruhl makes the extra effort to take his child’s coat off before putting her in the car seat.
The trick to knowing if the safety harness is securely fastened is by checking to see if just one finger can fit under the strap. It’s considered too loose if more the one finger can fit.
“She doesn’t have the puffiness of the coat pushing these straps out, and that allows for the straps to be firmly across her shoulders. …
Although it’s hard to take the winter coat off and take them out of the car seat, and have to put the winter coat on just to go into a store or somebody else’s home but it’s the right thing to do so we stress each other to do that.”
According to Consumer Report, here is how a person can perform a “puffy coat check”:
Step 1: Put the coat on your child, sit him or her in the car seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the webbing with your thumb and forefinger.
Step 2: Without loosening the harness at all, unhook it and remove your child from the car seat. Take the coat off, put your child back in the car seat, and buckle the harness straps, which should be adjusted just as they were when the child was wearing the coat.
If you can pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger now, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.
And as the Consumer Report suggests, if the car just isn’t at the right temperature yet, after your child is securely fastened in their seat, placing a blanket over top of them should help keep them warm.