Coats and Car Seat Danger: 3 Tips to Keep Kids Safe and Warm this Winter

It’s a typical frigid winter morning in Canada. You’re rushing around and getting baby Johnny ready for daycare. You bundle him up in his vest, sweater, puffy snowsuit, and the jacket to match. You stick him in the car seat, strap him up, and zoom off.

What you may not know is heavy winter gear may prevent the car seat from doing its job during a collision. When there is a thick layer of padding between the child and the car seat harness, the winter jacket padding can compress from the force of a crash making the straps too loose to keep the child safe.

An official crash test lab in Michigan simulates a 30-mph crash, causing the child dummy in a winter coat to hurtle out of its car seat. Source: Today.com

Transport Canada estimates that when properly used, car seats reduce deaths by 90 per cent in the event of a collision. So while Transport Canada does not ban kids from wearing winter coats in car seats, they recommend avoiding it. But, what’s a parent to do?

Here are some tips to safely buckle up your baby for the winter while keeping them warm and safe:

1. Test their winter coats for bulkiness.

Use these steps from ConsumerReports.org to test if your child’s winter coat is too bulky for the car seat:

  • Bundle up the child.
  • Buckle them into the car seat and adjust the straps as you normally would.
  • Take the child out of the car seat without adjusting or loosening the straps.
  • Take off the child’s winter coat.
  • Buckle the child in the car seat again, but do not adjust or tighten the straps.
  • If you can fit more than two fingers under the strap at the child's shoulder bone, the coat is too thick and should not be worn while in the car seat. 

2. Keep them warm, yet safe

If the child’s coat is too thick, there are ways you can still keep them warm:

  • Warm up the car before putting the child in the vehicle.
  • Dress the child warmly in normal clothing, like an undershirt, sweater, long pants, hat and mittens. Take off the winter coat in the car. Buckle the child into the car seat, then cover them with a blanket, or put the child's coat on backwards over their arms to keep them warm.
  • When shopping around for your child’s winter coat, keep fleece in mind. Polar fleece jackets and snowsuits are warm but thin. Also, avoid buying coats that are too big for your child.
  • Use baby car seat covers that safely fit over the top of the car seat, leaving the baby's face uncovered. Make sure the car seat cover doesn’t interfere with the harness straps.

3. Ensure the child and the seat are buckled up

Make sure the child is properly strapped into the car seat. Harnesses can be forgotten when covered by a car seat cover or blanket. Installing seats correctly is also imperative as there are many types of car seats and various ways to install them. For more information on how to pick, use, and care for a car seat, check out this article on Comparasave.com or visit a car seat clinic near you.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Trudging through the snow and strapping your fussy baby into a car seat can be a task. But follow these tips and take the time to ensure your child rides safe and warm this winter.