Experts: Heavy winter coats compromise car seat safety

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich--Normally, parents want their kids insulated from the cold weather as much as possible. Usually, that means thick, puffy, winter coats.

They're great for trapping in heat, but if mom or dad forgets to take them off when putting children in the car seat, it can spell disaster.  Experts say thick winter coats can actually compromise your child's safety in the car, meaning, you might be putting your child at risk without even knowing it.

Injury Prevention Specialist, Jennifer Hoekstra, from Spectrum Health, demonstrated why car seats and puffy coats are dangerous. Hoekstra, placed a 20-month-old child in his car seat with his coat on, strapped him in nice and tight.

"It's clip is right where it should be across his armpits but this is really giving us a false sense of tightness," Hoekstra said.

You'll see below, how much slack there is in the seat belt, even after keeping the car seat straps the same length and height. So even though the harness was tight with the jacket on, it became loose with the coat off.

"That would be a lot of room for that child to move forward in the event of a crash," Hoekstra said.

Too much slack could lead to a deadly scenario. In the event of a crash, the straps might hold the jacket in, but the child might come forward out of their jacket. Or, the straps could cause internal injuries, possibly even a broken bone.

If you want your child's car seat to fully protect them during a crash, the harness needs to be as close to your child as possible.

To keep your child warm in the car without a coat, try placing a blanket over them, or use their coat as a blanket by placing it on backwards. Hoekstra says it's important kids wear hats. That will keep their body heat centered around them.

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