The arrival of cold and wintry weather creates a special challenge for parents and caregivers of infants and children. It’s important to keep our little ones warm and protected from the wintry elements but kids, car seats, and coats can be a dangerous combination in winter weather.

A difficult balancing act exists between keeping children safely secured in their car seats and keeping them warm while traveling in wintry conditions. Never’place children under a car seat harness wearing bulky or fluffy clothing like coats, vests, and snowsuits. These items impede the car seat safety harness function and increase the risk of injury or death in a car crash. Bulky and fluffy coats and clothing flattens in a crash preventing the car seat harness from operating as intended to securely hold the child in place. This leaves children vulnerable to slipping from the car seat, and being thrown in a car crash. This principle is also true for adults wearing bulky winter coats and clothing under their seat belts.

Winter Car Seat Safety Tips

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following winter car seat safety tips:

  • Never place your child under the safety harness wearing their winter coat. They are not tightly secured even though they may appear to be. Place a coat or blanket on top of your child after they are safely secured in their car seat to keep them warm.
  • Dress your child in thin layers like leggings, tights, a bodysuit, or even long underwear; add a sweater or thermal shirt, pants, and a fleece for the top layer. Dressing in thin layers won’t interfere with the function of the car seat harness but will keep your child warm.
  • Infants should have on one more layer than adults to ensure proper warmth.
  • Don’t forget socks, gloves, and hats!
  • Do the ‘pinch’ test. Place your child in the car seat and secure the harness. If you can pinch the straps of the harness, tighten the straps more securely until you are unable to pinch the harness straps.
  • Never use car seat covers, pads or add-ons not sold originally with your car seat. Anything under your child, or on your child under the harness, can interfere with protecting your child in a car crash.

The AAP also recommends getting an early start with young children and infants when driving in wintry conditions. Give yourself plenty of time to drive slowly and carefully. The pediatricians’ group also suggests packing an emergency bag with extra clothing, hats, gloves, blankets, and light snacks in the event of an on-road emergency or delay due to wintry weather conditions.

These winter car seat safety tips can help keep your children safe and warm while the weather outside is frightful, and ensure happy winter travel memories.