What Every Parent Should Know about Car Seats and Winter Coats

Mark R. Zonfrillo, MD, MSCE

It is well known that car seats save lives. But when they are not used correctly, even the priciest or best-rated car seats will not protect a child the way they are meant to.

Many parents of young children are aware of the “pinch test.” After placing your child in the car seat and tightening the harness, you should not be able to pinch any of the webbing material at the collarbone level. However, during the winter when children are often layered with outerwear to keep warm, wearing a bulky jacket while in a car seat can actually be dangerous.

While it might feel like a child is strapped in tight, the added coat prevents the straps of the seat’s harness from being secure enough to prevent injury in a crash.


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Download our safety guidelines for more information on children and car seats.

In fact, a crash test shows what might happen to a child wearing a winter coat in a car seat. In a crash at just 30 miles per hour, a child can be thrown from the seat when wearing a heavy coat. 

To keep your child safe in a car seat in winter, it is best to secure your child in the seat without a winter coat, and then wrap the child in a blanket for warmth. The child will stay cozy, and you will feel more secure.

Dangers of other products

It may be tempting to use products such as an insulated car seat liner, but these may also create added space that can make your child unsafe in a crash. It is also important to note that many are not tested by car seat manufacturers and can void the warranty of your car seat.

A few extra steps

Try adding some extra time to your routine. On cold, wintry mornings, take the time to warm up your car and clear away snow and ice. Remember that driving in wintry weather can also make your commute longer. Instead of driving faster in dangerous conditions, adding in some extra time can take away the stress of traffic or weather-related delays.

Learn more about the car seat check program and the car seat safety guidelines.