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Why winter coats and car seats don't mix

Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, should never be worn underneath the harness of a car seat.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It's a reminder that could save your kids' lives if ever you're in a crash.

If they're young enough to be in a car seat, it's important you don't strap them in with that puffy, winter coat. Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, should never be worn underneath the harness of a car seat.

"If the jacket is puffy, when that point of impact happens during a crash, all that puffiness can compress," Kinzie Evrard, with Norton Children's Prevention and Wellness said. 

It can leave just enough space under the harness for a child to slip through the straps and be thrown from the seat.

"It's not just about slipping out. The harness can be positioned off their shoulders when that padding compresses. The chest clip can be too low so it can cause their body to ride out that crash differently than the car seat's designed to work," Evrard said.

Put it to the test

So, how do you know if your kid's strapped in correctly? This simple test takes just a couple minutes. 

Put your child in their seat with their coat on and strap them in tight. There should be no room to pinch the straps above the chest clip, which should be at armpit level.

Then, without loosening or adjusting the straps, unbuckle your child from the seat, remove their coat and strap them back in.

In a majority of puffy coat tests, "you can see how loose that harness is and how that chest clip is low," Evrard said. "That's what would've happened when that jacket would've compressed in a crash, how loose the harness would become."

Car seat technicians say to put nothing thicker than a sweatshirt on your child under the harness straps of a car seat. Choose layers, with items like fleece jackets or flannels, and always keep a blanket in the car. Once they're snug in their seat, they can also wear the coat backwards for added warmth, sliding their arms inside the coat on top of the harness.

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