Parent Reminder: Lose the Coat in the Car Seat this Winter

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Parents, you know the struggle. It’s a battle to get young ones to put on their coats and get all bundled up for the winter, let alone then into the car seat, but Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians in Iowa say there needs to be one more step taken.

Parents need to remove that bulky coat before getting the kids in their harness.

“It can be kind of annoying, I know that, especially in the wintertime trying to get out of the car into school, into daycare. But really best practice would be that you remove that coat before putting the child in the harness,” Janna Day, state child passenger safety coordinator said.

A bulky or puffy coat gives the illusion that your child is strapped in tight but in the event of a crash, the air inside a big coat compresses down leaving the harness way too loose and putting your child at risk for more injuries, according to Day. That's why people like local first responders say it's important to take off that coat before driving off.

“It can make a very big difference because people think the harnesses are tight, but they are not actually tight on the child,” Lt. Rick Thomas said with the Des Moines Fire Department.

Lt. Thomas said a good way of checking if a coat is too bulky is to put your child in the car seat with the coat, tighten the harness, then take off the coat and put your child back in the car seat. If you are able to pinch the straps of the car seat, it’s too loose.

Car seats don't act in the same way adult seat belts do, according to Day. That's why it's so important to get rid of that outer layer when inside the car and make sure the car seat straps are nice and tight.

“The biggest difference is that a seatbelt is designed to actually tighten in a crash. So when we are in a car crash the seat belt tightens to our bodies. A car seat, the harness inside of that does not act that same way. However tight we put the harness is where it stays. In a crash, the harness does not get any tighter so we need to have it nice and flat against the child's body pre-crash,” Day said.

There are other ways to keep a child warm in the winter inside the car. Day suggests using a blanket or even putting the coat on backward after putting your child in the car seat.

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