Why Your Child’s Winter Jacket Can Be Deadly

With winter on it’s way, parents will be bringing out all their winter accessories out for use. This will include winter tires, winter wind shield wipers, winter clothing, shovels, hot chocolate etc. A lot of these items are useful and outright necessary to survive any Canadian winter. Some of these items can even determine life and death situations. An example of this is winter tires and to a certain extent winter wind shield wipers. Yet there is one overlooked combination of normal winter items that can be lethal towards children: winter coats and car seats.


Most people may think this is just nonsense. I thought so too when I first read about it, but as a mother of two, I felt I had to do more research to verify these claims of danger to my children. Early last year in Berwick, Pennsylvania a toddler was ejected out of her car seat in a car accident while wearing a bulky winter coat. The autopsy showed that due to the winter coat, no bruises occurred from the car seat straps and seat belt straps. The bulky winter coats undermined the safety of the car seat, allowing the innocent toddler to be ejected and killed. Reading this, I was shocked and scared. How could something like winter coats and car seats put my children at risk?


I had to perform more research, because I didn’t want to put my children in harm’s way. From what I’ve found is that when car seat straps are tightened over top of these coats there is a risk of the bulk compressing during a collision, which can result in too much slack in the straps. This slack means the possibility of your child slipping out of place, or even entirely out of safety of the car seat. This explains the death of the toddler I mentioned.


Obviously, I was very concerned on how I was going to transport my kids in the car, so I found a handy guide from Consumer reports to make sure that the jacket isn’t too bulky:


    • Put your child in the car seat with their coat on
    • Tighten harness to the point where there is no slack in the strap that can be pinched between your thumb and forefinger
    • Take your child out of the seat without loosening the straps
  • Remove bulky layer(s) and put your child back in the car seat. If there is slack in the straps that can be pinched between your fingers, the coat is too bulky

What to do instead


    • Lots of light layers. When avoiding the puffy down coat or bulky winter jacket, try layering a long sleeve T shirt under a cozy fleece jacket. If it’s really cold out, pair this with one of the other options.
    • Bring a blanket (or keep on in the vehicle) to put over your child once they’re safely strapped in. This works well for longer trips because it’s easy to remove once the car warms up and extra layers aren’t needed
    • The backwards coat. If you forget a blanket and it’s too cold for your child to be in their seat without their coat on try this easy trick. After strapping your child into their seat and tightening the straps, put their arms into the coat backward, so that the back of the coat acts as a blanket over their chest and legs. This keeps them warm and doesn’t interfere with the straps of
  • Try a car seat cover. Though this option doesn’t work for older children or booster seats, covers are a great, easy way to keep your little one warm throughout the colder months.

If you’re still unsure about whether or not a coat is too bulky, or if you just want a bit more information about car seat safety, this link has information on car seat clinics across Canada.