Posted: January 17, 2018 | Author: Maureen Molla, Yorkshire Parent and Yorkshire Teaching Assistant

This cold blast may be your first experience with the combination of cold weather, puffy coats and car seats. As a former Child Protective Services worker born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania (Yes, that city with a record-breaking snowfall that had already surpassed five feet since Christmas), child safety and cold are entwined in my psyche. Over the past few weeks I have noticed a cold weather safety issue that arises with coats and car seats that I want to highlight.

As cold weather blew through Houston, many of us to rushed out to buy extra-warm coats. What you may not realize is that a puffy coat may negate the effectiveness of your seat belt, and more specifically, your child’s car seat. In a car crash, fluffy padding flattens out from the force of the impact. This leaves extra space under the harness allowing a child to slip through the straps and be thrown from the seat.

So what are we as parents to do? We want our children to be warm, but we also want them to be safe. The ultimate goal is for the car seats to work effectively in preventing serious injury or death in the event of a car accident. Luckily, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have come up with winter car seat safety tips.

Winter Car Seat Safety Tips

  • Dress your child in thin layers. Fleece is a good top layer because it traps heat without adding any padding under the harness or seat belt.
  • Wear hats, mittens, and socks or booties.
  • Car seat pinch test. © American Academy of Pediatrics. Source: healthychildren.orgTighten the straps of the car seat harness. Even if your child looks snuggly bundled up in the car seat, multiple layers may make it difficult to tighten the harness enough. If you can pinch the straps of the car seat harness, then it needs to be tightened to fit snugly against your child’s chest.
  • Use a coat or blanket over the straps. You can add a blanket over the top of the harness straps.
  • Put your child’s winter coat on backwards (over the buckled harness straps) after he or she is buckled up.
  • Keep an emergency bag in your car with blankets, dry clothing, hats and gloves, and non-perishable snacks.

Our Yorkshire Community has once again shown that we can rise to any challenge mother nature blows our way. Until warm weather returns, I hope these tips help our children stay safe. If you would like more information on this topic, as well as extra winter tips for infants in car seats, visit: Winter Car Seat Safety Tips from the AAP

Typical Car Seat Safety Mistakes

And given that this is Houston, by the time you read this blog post, the cold weather could be completely gone for this year and we are back to shorts and flip flops. Car seat safety is something we should consciously practice all year long. You will frequently see me at car pool in the morning, which gives me a window into some of the mistakes we often make with car seats. I admit that when in a hurry, I too have been guilty on not doing the correct positioning or allowing my child to buckle herself without checking the tightness of her straps. Here are some of the car seat concerns we have seen in carpool:

Children Not in a Car Seat

Whether grandma picked the child up without transitioning seats between cars, you only have a short drive or child unbuckled themselves on the way to school we see children not in car seats. Proper child restraints are required by law.

Children Not Properly Buckled in a Car Seat

When buckling your child in, make sure to check for proper positioning of buckles and tightness of straps.

Infographic-BATS will help keep your baby safe. ©Tiffany Eichelberger.

Improper Car Seat or Booster Seat for a Child’s Height and Weight

This handy car seat guide and other car seat information for parents are provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics: Car Seats: Information for Families

Types of Car Seats. © American Academy of Pediatrics. Source:

Get the Facts

Our ultimate goal is to keep our children in our community safe. Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control reported 663 children ages 12 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes during 2015—of these deaths, 35% were not buckled up.

If you have any questions regarding proper child safety restraints, we are here for you.