Winter Coats Hazardous to Children Riding in Car Seats

Jan. 19, 2018 -


STATEWIDE — With snow and colder temperatures expected in many parts of Colorado this weekend, Car Seats Colorado is reminding parents and caregivers that bulky winter coats pose a danger to children riding in car seats and should not be worn underneath the harness.

While it may seem counterintuitive (who wouldn’t bundle their child up when it’s freezing outside?), strapping your child into his or her car seat while wearing a puffy winter jacket can actually be very dangerous. That’s because during a crash, the material of the coat compresses, leaving the harness straps too loose to be effective.

“Of course parents have good intentions when they bundle their children up before getting in the car,” said Colorado State Patrol (CSP) Trooper Tim Sutherland, Child Passenger Safety Coordinator for Car Seats Colorado. “But it’s important to recognize that car seats are only effective when used correctly, and unfortunately this is one of the more common mistakes we see.”


Photos and B-roll of the pinch test, and interviews with Sam Cole, CDOT Safety Communications Manager and Trooper Tim Sutherland, available here:

How do you know if your child’s coat is too bulky?

  • Put the coat on your child and strap them into their car seat. Tighten the harness until you can’t pinch any excess strap between your thumb and forefinger (this is the “pinch test” to make sure the harness is tight enough).
  • Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the car seat.
  • Take the coat off, put your child back in the car seat and buckle the harness.
  • Now try the pinch test again — if you can pinch excess fabric on the shoulder strap then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.

Here’s what to do instead:

  • For infants and smaller children, put a blanket over the child in the car seat to keep them warm. Do not cover the entire car seat with the blanket — this can restrict air flow and may lead to carbon dioxide poisoning.
  • For toddlers and older children, you can put a blanket over the child after they’ve been strapped into the harness, or turn their jacket around and put their arms through it backward to keep warm.
  • Be very careful not to overheat your child — a baby bundled up with blankets in the car while the heat is blasting can quickly lead to overheating.

Car crashes are a leading cause of death among children under the age of 13 nationwide and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), three out of four children are not properly restrained when riding in vehicles.

“Sadly, between 2010 and 2016, 27 children riding unrestrained in a vehicle were fatally injured on Colorado roads,” said Sam Cole, Safety Communications Manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). “Our priority is making sure parents and caregivers have the knowledge, tools and resources to keep their kids safe when riding in vehicles.”

Factors contributing to improperly restrained children include an improperly installed car seat, use of a car seat that does not fit the child based on their size and the seat manufacturer’s limits, and not properly securing the harness or seat belt. To have your car seat inspected to ensure it is properly installed, visit one of Car Seats Colorado’s inspection stations located throughout the state. To find a car seat inspection station near you, visit

Car Seats Colorado provides education and resources to help parents ensure their children are riding safely, as well as recycling programs for used car seats and training courses for safety technicians. Car Seats Colorado is comprised of the CSP, CDOT, local car seat technicians, law enforcement, emergency services and other professionals who are dedicated to implementing child passenger safety programs.

Learn more about how to keep children safe in vehicles and download informational resources