You know, there's this funny thing that happens sometimes—people get all riled up when they see kids without their big, puffy jackets, especially during a North Dakota winter. And hey, I get it! We all want the little ones to stay warm when it's cold outside.

But the reason some kiddos might not have those bulky coats on in their car seats is all about safety. Those cozy jackets can actually mess with the way the car seat straps work.

When a child wears a big winter coat in the car seat, it creates this extra space between their body and the harness straps. And in the event of a sudden stop or, heaven forbid, a crash, that coat can compress. And when it does, those straps might not be snug enough to keep your kiddo safe.

Here's a pro tip for parents--Emily Thomas, Auto Safety Manager at the Auto Consumer Reports, Auto Test Center, stresses the importance of ensuring the harness is snug before every ride. She suggests a simple and effective test called "The Pinch Test."

To know if a car seat’s harness is tight enough, it must pass the pinch test. Adjust the harness, then try to pinch the webbing at the child’s shoulder.

Be aware that slack can be hiding in some additional locations:

  • at the child’s hips
  • at the child’s torso

If you can grasp any material and pinch the harness vertically between your fingers, it’s too loose. Keep making small tugs on the harness adjuster until your fingers slide right off the webbing.

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There are plenty of ways parents can keep their kiddos warm while in the car—draping the coat over them, dressing in thin layers, cozy blankets, hats, gloves, you name it.

So, when you see a kid without that big winter coat in their car seat, it's not because their parents are being forgetful or don't care about keeping them warm. It's actually a safety move to make sure the car seat does its job properly.

Just know that their safety is at the forefront of their parent's mind. Sometimes safety comes before looking super bundled up, even if it means dealing with a few chilly moments before the car warms up.

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