Did you know the Upper Merion Township Police Department has a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician? Officer Carolyn Hunt educates parents and caregivers about the correct ways to install car seats and secure children to reduce the risk of injury during a crash. In addition to providing these valuable safety tips, Officer Hunt is also available for individual appointments to check the installation of your car seat or booster seat. During the winter, Officer Hunt checks the overall fit and installation of the car seat along with the looseness of the harness due to the child’s winter clothing. Bulky winter coats under the harness prevent it from being able to safely secure the child in the event of a crash. It may feel like the harness is snug, but the straps are often dangerously too loose and can lead to too much forward movement or even ejection on impact.
If you are unsure about whether your child is safely secured in the car seat, make a car seat safety check appointment by calling Dispatch at (610) 265-3232 and asking for Officer Carolyn Hunt.
Follow these steps provided by Pennsylvania’s Traffic Injury Prevention Project to keep your little one safe this winter!
To determine if the child’s coat is too bulky and not safe to use under the harness while traveling in the car:
- Put the coat on the child and correctly place the car seat harness on the child’s body. Secure the harness and adjust snugly to fit the child. A snug harness does not allow the webbing to be folded between your thumb and forefinger when pinched at the shoulder.
- Without loosening the harness, unbuckle and remove the child from the car seat.
- Remove the coat and place the child back in the car seat. Correctly place the harness on the child’s body and buckle the harness straps. If you can pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger, the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.
Winter Coats and Harnessing
What You CAN Do:
- Purchase coats that come in layers or offer warmth with thinner fabrics and fillers.
- Place a blanket over the child in a car seat for additional warmth.
- Put your child’s coat on backwards once in the car and buckled.
- Secure the child in the car seat with the clothes that will be worn while indoors.
- Buckle and tighten the harness snugly. A snug harness does not allow any slack. It lies in a relatively straight line without pressing on the child’s body and pushing it into an unnatural position. The harness should be snug enough on the child that you cannot pinch any extra webbing.
- Slip the child’s arms through the sleeves to wear the coat backwards and over the snug harness.
- In the event of a crash, the snug harness will keep your child secure.
- Warm up the car in a well-ventilated area prior to taking the child outside.
What You SHOULD NOT Do:
- Don’t purchase and use puffy coats, buntings, and snowsuits or too much padding under the harness.
- Don’t use head roll supports that do not come with the car seat (non-regulated). These items can actually interfere with the harness, add padding under the child, and affect how the car seat protects in a crash.
- Don’t use car seat covers that cover the entire car seat for warmth and decoration. Unless the car seat cover comes with the car seat, it should not be used in the car during travel.
Following Manufacturer’s Instructions
Install the child’s car seat correctly to reduce the risk of injury in a crash. It is important to follow the car seat and vehicle instructions carefully to achieve a correct installation. Useful tips to obtain a correct installation:
- Read the car seat instruction manual and the portion of your vehicle’s owner’s manual covering car seat installation.
- Place the car seat in the back seat of the vehicle and secure it tightly. It should not move side-to-side or front-to-back more than one inch when pulled at the belt path.
Secure Children Correctly in the Car Seat
- Properly position the harness on your child.
- Rear-facing: The harness straps should lie flat and be threaded through the slot that is at or below your child’s shoulders.
- Forward-facing: The harness straps should lie flat and be threaded through the reinforced slot that is at or above your child’s shoulders.
- Buckle the harness and secure the chest clip. Tighten the harness until it is snug on the child.
- The harness is snug when the webbing cannot be pinched at the shoulder.
- Make sure the chest clip is at armpit level.
It may seem difficult to make these extra adjustments as you’re running in and out of the car during icy temperatures, but it could save your child’s life. If you want Officer Hunt to check your child’s seat, please call Dispatch at (610) 265-3232 and ask for Officer Carolyn Hunt.