Puffy Winter Coats Can Kill Kids in Car Seats — but so Can Freezing Temperatures

Parents have a lot to keep track of when it comes to car safety, kids, and car seats, and now it seems there may be one more thing for them to worry about. Recently, some claims have been made that driving with kids wearing puffy winter coats in their car seats can be dangerous. Others argue, though, that kids wearing winter coats in their car seats is actually a good idea to keep them safe from winter temps. So, what’s the truth?

The upside to kids wearing winter coats in car seats

Children bundled up in winter coats in Moscow, Russia
Children bundled up in winter coats | David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

The Washington Post has laid out the arguments on both sides of this issue, and it’s easy to imagine parents getting frustrated by the seeming impossibility of keeping their kids safe from both freezing temps and collisions. 

Winter weather expert Tanja Fransen has emphasized the importance of making sure kids are bundled up before hitting the road, especially in cold, rural areas. As she points out, if you’re ever in an accident in cold, winter weather, it can be quite some time until help arrives if you don’t live in an urban zone. People have been known to die of hypothermia after rolling their cars in cold climates far from help. 

Fransen believes strongly that it’s essential to make sure kids wear their winter coats in their car seats so that if you’re unable to assist them in the event of an accident, they’ll have a better chance of surviving the cold temperatures until help arrives. She says that the idea of simply covering your child with a blanket doesn’t cut it, as the blanket will easily fall off if you’re in an accident. 

The cons of putting kids in winter coats in car seats

However, the safety advocacy group Kids and Cars has a different take on the matter. They claim that puffy winter coats create extra space between the child and the car seat harness, which creates the possibility that the child could be thrown from the seat in the event of an accident, causing injury or even death. As such, Kids and Cars recommends that parents remove puffy winter jackets before putting children in car seats. Concerns about warmth, they say, can be addressed with a blanket or coat draped over the child. 

According to Kids and Cars, parents should make sure that the harness is snug against the child’s chest for proper safety. Additionally, they should make sure that it is tight enough that it’s not possible to pinch any part of the strap together.

Additional tips for winter driving safety

Driving in winter weather can be hazardous for many reasons, so it’s good to keep a few safety tips from the NHTSA in mind before hitting the road in cold weather, snow, or ice. 

First, it’s important to drive slowly when dealing with wintry precipitation. You will need much more space than average to brake when the roads are slippery, so make sure you allow yourself that room between you and the vehicle in front of you. 

Winter car maintenance is also key to preventing breakdowns that can leave you stranded out in the cold. It’s always a good idea to make sure your battery is fully charged, given how hard cold temps can be on it. You’ll also want to check your tire pressure regularly because low temperatures can result in lower tire pressure, which leads to less traction and tire blowouts. Also, speaking of tires, keeping an eye on their tread is especially important if you live in a snowy climate. The more you can do to keep your tires in tiptop shape, the more likely you’ll be to reach your destination with no mishaps.

All in all, winter driving can be stressful, so the more you can do to be prepared, the better off both you and your kids will be. 

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