Apparently I fell off the face of the planet when it comes to car seat safety. Despite reading all the NHTSA tips for car seats, doing the safety checks, and experiencing winters my whole life, I have never, ever heard of winter car seat safety. If you have a bundled up little one, this is a must-read and must-share to educate other parents.

The rule to remember: No bulky coats on children in car seats.

First, let me divulge a few of the (brutally honest) thoughts that came to mind when I heard this:

  1. This article must be written by a person from a mild weather state. There’s no way in zero degree weather I’d let my kids go without a coat!
  2. But I wear a coat with my seatbelt and I’m fine…
  3. So I’m supposed to get my kids out of the car and bundle them up in the…parking lot?? This sounds like such a hassle to me.

While I quickly thought of every reason why this was a bad idea, I landed on the one reason why this was a good idea: safety always comes first. The fact is, a child may be buckled in tightly with their winter coat on, but in an accident, the impact of pressure would compact the bulk of the coat making the harness too loose to keep the child safe. So, I called my local fire department and got these important tips that are pretty simple and much more do-able than I imagined.

Here’s a simple way to test the bulk of your child’s coat:
  1. Put the coat on your child and buckle them up, tightening the straps until you can’t pinch the harness with your fingers.
  2. Undo the straps without loosening them and remove your child from the seat.
  3. Take your child’s coat off, put them back in the seat and fasten the harness.
  4. If you can pinch the straps, then the coat is too bulky to wear in the car seat.

The winter coat rule applies to children in car seats and for children in boosters if the seat belt system in the car does not automatically lock when the brakes are applied.

Keep them warm, and safe.

If you find your child’s coat is too bulky to buckle them in safely, here are some alternate options to keep your child warm:

  • Put their coat on backward, like a blanket.
  • Use an actual blanket.
  • Use a thinner coat for car rides. Or if your child has layers in their coat, use the thinner layer for car rides and add the other layer when you go outdoors.
  • Heat your car up ahead of time and let them ride comfortably without a coat.

For all the other snow-state mommies and daddies like me who didn’t know this…now you do! So, test the bulk of your child’s coat and keep them safe in their car seat this winter. Foremost encourages all parents to be safe while driving, especially with a child passenger.