Experts warn parents of winter coat and car seat danger; here's how to keep your child safe

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Parents and families are always on the go, especially in the morning. You're running out the door in icy temperatures and you bundle up your kids in their coats to keep them warm. But Consumer Reports experts have a warning for parents: a bulky coat and a car seat could be a dangerous combination.

Emily Thomas said car seat safety is important to her, not only because she serves as a Consumer Reports' child passenger safety expert, but also because she's a mom to 2-year-old Micah.

Thomas said the extra bulk of a puffy winter coat worn under the straps of car seats could make the safety seat harness too loose to properly secure your child in a crash.

"I also do the daycare drop off every morning and I know that it can be really annoying and kind of inconvenient to have to remove their coats to put them into their car seats. But I will tell it is really important to their safety and we do want them to be as safe as we can in their car seat," Thomas said.

Experts said there's an easy way to check if your child's coat is too puffy or bulky.

First, secure your child in the car seat while they're wearing a coat, so that there is no slack in the harness straps. Then, remove the coat and put your child back into their seat. If the harness straps are loose, that's a sign there's a problem.

"In a crash, if he was still wearing his coat, his coat would compress, so leaving this extra room, gives him additional room to move and potentially move outside the safety of his car seat which would increase his risk of injury," Thomas said.

So, how should your child stay safe and warm in the car?

Consumer Reports recommend that you secure your child into their car seat, then put a blanket or coat on top of the harness. For older kids, experts recommend putting their coat sleeves on backward after they are harnessed into the seat.

"I know that it can be challenging, but the sooner you start with these types of safety practices the sooner it becomes the normal," Thomas said. "He's so used to taking his coat off, that he doesn't even like to wear his coat under his harness - he's the one who takes his coat off."

Consumer Reports experts said that in addition to taking your child's coat off in the car, it's important to always make sure that your child is properly harnessed. You should not be able to pinch and fabric, and their chest clip should always be at armpit level.
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