Motoring organisations in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany are advising motorists not to wear a heavy winter jacket inside the car, for safety reasons.
The reason: a heavy jacket or coat requires the seat belt to be loosened slightly, so that it no longer conforms to the body but to the garment. The advice applies equally to driver and passengers, including children.
According to tests carried out by the German motoring organisation ADAC, accidents involving people wearing thick winter coats caused more serious injuries, even at low speeds.
ADAC ran an experiment using crash test dummies of adults and children wearing winter clothing and belted in normally, in a car seat or child seat. The test vehicle was then stopped at a speed of 16km/h, similar to a rear-end collision in city traffic.
“The result: in both adults and children, the transverse webbing cut deep into the abdomen,” ADAC reports.
“This can cause serious injury to the soft tissues such as the intestines, liver or spleen and even lead to internal bleeding. Even with emergency braking manoeuvres, minor injuries can occur. Due to the padding in winter clothing, the belt has room to move towards the body and is already over the lower abdomen when the belt is fastened. Ideally, however, it spans the hip bones in adults or the thighs in children.”
Rather than keeping on heavy outdoor clothing in the car, ADAC recommends using an auxiliary heater to warm the car up quickly, or providing a pre-warmed blanket for children.
The advice has been picked up by the Flemish motoring organisation VAB and its Dutch counterpart ANWB.
“Your room to move is limited and often people start to take off their coats while driving, which can also lead to dangerous situations,” the VAB advises on its website.
And winter coats are not the only problem. Other winter clothing is not ideally suited to driving conditions.
“Hats and scarves can impair vision, and lined gloves do not always provide a firm grip on the steering wheel. You shouldn’t sit behind the wheel with bulky shoes, because thick winter boots can make it difficult to use the accelerator and brakes sensitively,” ADAC said.
“Even if these are not forbidden – because there are no regulations for wearing proper footwear when driving – the driver must always be able to react appropriately. In the event of an accident, there can also be problems with the insurance.”