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Winter Car Seat Safety

By Amanda Swanson, MD, La Junta Clinic

Baby, it’s cold outside!  We all want to keep our kids warm and safe.  Did you know that bulky winter coats and snow suits are great for sledding and skiing, but dangerous for the car? Even though it looks like your child’s harness is tight enough, in a crash, all that bulk is squished down, and suddenly, your child can be thrown from the car seat as if they were not buckled at all!  

How do I keep my child warm and safe at the same time?

  • Use hats and mittens to keep heads and hands warm. 
  • Wear warm but thin layers such as fleece. 
  • Your children can wear a coat out to the car, but then remove coats and snow suits before putting them into the car seat. You could then place either a blanket or coat OVER your children to keep them warm.

Not sure if your child's outfit is safe? Do the "Slack Challenge:"

  1. Place your child in the car seat in the outfit. Buckle and tighten as you normally would according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  2. Remove your child from the car seat without loosening the straps. 
  3. Remove outfit or coat. 
  4. Place and buckle the child back in the car seat without adjusting the straps. 
  5. If the straps are still correct without having to be adjusted again, congratulations!  This is a safe outfit to wear in the car.  If there is slack, and you have to tighten the straps after removing the clothing, it is too bulky!  It is not safe for the car. 

What about adults or bigger kids? Bulky coats can also interfere with regular seatbelts, so crank the heater and ditch those bulky coats before you buckle up!