Winter is almost here and parents and caregivers make sure to bundle up their children to protect them from the harsh elements. While snowsuits and heavy jackets are a must to keep children in Vermont warm in the winter, they create an unsafe scenario if they are worn while in a car seat.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 70 percent of car seats are used incorrectly. How you position your child in the safety seat matters, as does what they’re wearing!

“When a child is wearing a thick coat, it’s hard to tell if you have a good harness fit, which is crucial. A coat can add a lot of slack, reducing the level of protection for your child in a crash,” NHTSA said in a statement. Most parents and caregivers are surprised to learn that the harnesses in car seats are made to stretch in a crash. Extra slack in the harness creates a dangerous situation that increases the likelihood of trauma to the head, neck, and spine. The potential for an ejection during a crash is possible.

In general, we recommend nothing heavier than a fleece in the car seat. The straps need to be just as tight as they are when the jacket isn’t being worn. The following are steps to check if your child can wear their jacket in the car seat.

Winter Car Seat Safety Tips

  • Place you child in the car seat with their jacket on. Tighten the harness, and perform the pinch test: your thumb and forefinger should not be able to pinch any of the harness material when it is nice and tight.
  • Remove your child from the seat without loosening the harness.
  • Take their coat off, and put the child back in the child seat without adjusting the tightness, and buckle up the harness straps.
  • Can you pinch any material between your thumb and forefinger? If yes, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.

So what happens if you find that the coat cannot be safely worn under the harness? Here are a couple things you can do to keep your child safe and warm in his/her child seat.

  • Try using an elasticized, shower cap style seat cover after babies are buckled into their seat.
  • After securing your child in the seat, put the coat on backwards, with the child’s arms through the sleeves.
  • Lay a blanket over your child to keep him/her warm.

These tips will keep your little ones warm and safe this winter. For more information about winter car seat safety, please click here.

To schedule a free car seat inspection, call (802) 847-1215.

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