Winter Car Seat Safety

Puffy coats and snowsuits will keep your little one warm, but they can be extremely dangerous when worn in a car seat.

Thick coats pose a hazard when worn in a car seat because they interfere with the effectiveness of the harness straps. Sherri Hannan, Program Director of the Fayette County Safe Kids Coalition, said parents can do a quick test to see how a coat would affect their child’s car seat in the event of an accident.

“Strap your baby in the car seat while wearing their winter coat. Then take the baby out of the seat, take off the coat and buckle them back in the car seat. You’ll see how loose the straps are without the coat.”

That is how the straps would function in the event of a crash. A large coat equates to loose straps because you can’t get them tight enough on the body and you risk injury.

Hannan recommends always using a “pinch test” to check your child’s car seat straps. You want the harness snug enough that you can’t pinch any excess webbing on the straps when buckled around the child.

“You want the straps as snug and secure as possible and all that puffy stuff in a crash equates to a loose harness.”

Instead of wearing a puffy coat or snowsuit, Hannan recommends other ways to keep a child warm on that trip from the house to the car.

  • Warm up the car first, making sure you have good ventilation if you’re in a garage.
  • If your child is still in an infant carrier car seat, keep the carrier inside until it’s time to get in the car.
  • Strap the child in the car seat and then put their coat on backwards, with their arms in the armholes and the back of the coat laying against their chest.
  • Use a heavy quilt or a blanket over the car seat.

Here is a video by a local Child Passenger Safety Technician with great visuals to explain winter coat safety in car seats.