Winter Coats and Car Seat Safety

Coats and Car Seats

Getting your little ones dressed and ready to face the outside world is always a struggle, especially in winter when there’s multiple extra layers they need in order to keep warm. When the weather is especially cold and icy, most parents would wrap their children up in jumpers, scarves and coats before letting them outside. This is obviously perfect for when they're out and about, but what about when they’re in the car? 

Cars can take a while to warm up, they can be frozen and it may be that, if you’re only travelling a short journey, the car won’t even have the time to fully warm up before you arrive at your destination. In this case, you’d be inclined to leave your child bundled up and cosy in their layers and their coat as it’s just quicker and easier, but this wouldn’t be very safe in the event of a car accident.

What is recommended and why

Most (if not all) children’s car seat manufacturers advise that children do not wear snowsuits or puffy jackets when they are strapped into and using their car seat, and here at Multimac, we’re no different. 

Your average puffy, thick winter coat will be lined with materials such as feathers or downs to insulate them and keep the wearer nice and warm when they’ve got the coat on. Obviously, outside of the car this is brilliant, but inside the car it can cause safety issues.

The insulation within the coat creates a gap between your child and their harness when you’re strapping them into their car seat, which means that you’ll be unable to properly fasten the harness tight to their body compromising it’s effectiveness if you were to get in an accident. Shockingly, the gap created by a winter coat between the harness and the child can sometimes even be a few inches wide, which could have catastrophic consequences. 

To see for yourself just how large this gap can be, you can try securing your little one in their car seat harness whilst they're wrapped up warm in their winter layers of jumpers, scarves and a nice thick, warm winter coat. Tighten the harness as best as you can, and then unclip the harness and remove your child from the seat without loosening or tightening it. If you then remove the coat and other layers from your child, and fasten them in when wearing only a normal t-shirt, you will be able to see first-hand just how big of a gap their winter coat can create. When it comes down to the safety of your child in their car seat, just this gap can be detrimental, and every centimetre counts. 

If you were to get into an accident whilst your child was wearing a thick coat and their harness wasn’t properly tightened and secured, the insulation in their puffy winter jacket would be compressed by the strong force generated by the crash, and all the air would be pushed out. This would result in your child being thrown around in their seat or even launched out of it and potentially being seriously injured. The purpose of the harness or seat belt in any car seat is to hold you or your child in place in the car seat securely, so that in the event of a crash it would minimise the injuries that you would receive. I’m sure we’ve all heard of the horror stories of people crashing when they weren’t wearing their seat belts properly (or not wearing them at all) and flying through car windows, injuring other passengers in the car or even seriously breaking bones as a consequence. I think you’ll agree with me when I say: it’s really just not worth it.

Below is a GIF showing a crash test dummy wearing a puffy, winter coat.

So, what’s the solution?

A safe solution to this issue is a Road Coat; a warm winter jacket designed to be safely worn by children, both in and out of the car. 

The Road Coat is unique because it’s made up of two layers. The thin inner layer and split collar of the coat allow you to zip your child into their coat and still fully secure and tighten their car seat harness against them; just as though they were wearing a t-shirt! You can then zip up the puffy, insulated outer layer over their harness, so your little one is wrapped up safely and warmly when travelling. 

There’s lots of other solutions to this issue as well; for smaller babies or children who aren’t comfortable in coats, you can purchase car seat blankets. These are (as you’ve probably guessed) blankets designed to be worn and used when your child is in their car seat without impacting or getting in the way of the car seat harnesses. A typical car seat blanket or wrap will have a thin layer to sit on top of the car seat with holes for the harness to pass through. Your child would then sit in their car seat, on top of the blanket, allowing you to fully secure your little one into their car seat and then wrap them up, so they’re still comfortable whilst staying safe. 

You may be wondering why a thinner jacket wouldn’t be okay, or why you couldn’t use just a normal blanket in the car, and you obviously absolutely could, however an important feature of the Road Coat and car seat blankets is that they are safety products, so they will have had to undergo safety testing. This provides you as a parent with the additional piece of mind that your child is warm and comfortable, and to achieve this you’re using something that is not only safe, but can (in some cases) even improve the safety of your child when travelling in the car. You also have the added knowledge that your child cannot remove their blanket or coat whilst you’re driving, as it is underneath their harness or strapped to them by the harness, meaning you are assured that your child will be comfortable for their whole journey in the car. There’s no more throwing off or dropping blankets for your child anymore, no more you having to stop the car to get them comfortable again. What’s not to love, right?