Why do puffy winter coats compromise car seat safety?

Why do puffy winter coats compromise car seat safety?

Why puffy winter coats compromise car seat safety
       A baby in a puffy winter coat 

As winter sets in the coming days, it’s time to start taking those puffy coats, boots and other garments out of bins and closets.

When it comes to your kids, the wool or fiber does a great job protecting them from the frosty weather when they are at home, school and social places.

And you will love it when they are completely insulated.

But here is the truth:

The thick puffy coats are a threat to your child’s safety when travelling in a car seat.


Winter coats and car seats: the effect of puffy winter coats on car seat safety

Did you know that there are crash tested coats that your child can wear while travelling in a car seat? Check out our list of best winter coats for baby car seats.

When your kid is in a puffy jacket and you put him or her into the car seat, strapping the seat belt gives a misleading sense of tautness.

Air puffs out of the jacket but that does not guarantee that the seat belt is as tight as it should be.  Or at least as it would without the coat on. 

Slack in a car seat belt generated by a puffy winter coat
Typical baby car seat belt slack added by a puffy winter coat

Child injury specialists have done tests involving strapping a child in a winter coat as tight as possible and then strapping the child again to the same latch position but this time without the winter coat. The slack generated in the second time is in most cases enough to force an adult hand through! 

And you can do this test with your child to confirm. According to Miriam Manary, a researcher at the University of Michigan, in the second step where you strap your child again but without the winter coat, “You should not be able to pinch any webbing up the shoulders…”


At a 50Km/h car crash, a loose object in the car has its weight multiplied by 20

Did you know that according to the Automobile Assurance Society of Quebec, at a 50km/h car crash, the weight of objects and people in the car is multiplied by 20 at that moment of impact? This means your 9-kg child becomes a 180-kg projectile. 

Miriam has conducted a car crash simulation to prove the dangers of wearing puffy winter coats in car seats. She uses a child-equivalent dummy in a winter coat and at only 30mph impact, it comes hurtling out of the jacket and the straps. 

In case of a crash, the slack could provide room enough for the child to shift.

This could lead to grievous scenarios;

  • The straps might trap the jacket but your child gets ejected out of his jacket and the car seat. The after effects of this could be head injuries, concussions or even death.
  • The shifting in the straps might also cause your child injuries such as cuts and fractures.  

What you need to do to secure your child and still keep him or her warm in the car

To ensure that your child is collision safe in his or her car seat, you need to take out the puffy jacket and fasten the harness without it.

By now you are probably wondering what sense it makes to sacrifice warmth for safety.

But it’s possible to have both:

And there are several ways to achieve this;

1. Warming up your car-Warm up the car before the journey. There will be no biting cold inside to necessitate a bulky jacket.

2. Use of thin layered clothes– Dress your child in thin layers so that the seat belt can be as tight as possible. The outer layer should preferably have a synthetic element in order to trap some insulating air while still being able to breathe.

Examples of fantastic thin layers that you can use for your kid include;

  • Ponchos-There are tons of vintage and handmade ponchos that your child can wear without affecting the car seat strap tautness. However, our recommendation is that the poncho should be;

                            -Hooded in order to trap your kid’s body heat from the head and the neck area.

                            -Made of cotton or cotton based to keep your kid as warm as possible while still allowing the garment to breathe.  Amazon has a good selection, seen here 


  • Thermal pajamas– Good thermal pajamas are soft, lightweight and incredibly comfortable and you can have your child wear them under his or her normal clothing.

3. Cozy toe or foot muffs-For infants and toddlers after fastening the harness around him or her, zip him or her in a child car seat manufacturer approved cozy toe or footmuff.

4. Use of a thin a blanket– if the foot muffs or cozy toe are not available, find a thin blanket, fold it in half and tightly tuck it around the baby and over the strapped harness.

A word of caution is that the blanket should not cover your child beyond the armpit level. 

The same blanket covering process can be used with older children.

Not covering beyond the armpit level allows the child or you to easily take off the blanket if the car interior gets too hot, which wouldn’t have been possible if the child was wearing the winter coat.

5. Hat and gloves– Finally, ensure that you cover the child’s head with a hat, gloves on his her or her hands, as this helps to trap his or her body heat.

Contrary to popular opinion, do not place your child’s coat backward over him or her to act as a blanket. The reason is that the child will definitely be tempted to slip his or her arms through the jacket sleeves, and this can complicate his or her removal from the car seat in case of an emergency.

Thin winter coats for car seats

Alternative to the above solutions, there are some child winter coats that are thin enough not to affect the seat strap tautness. These include crash tested  road coats and fleece jackets .
They are amazingly warm, comfy and specially designed for use with child car seats.  

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