VIA| With cold weather on the way, parents tend to bundle their babies up in thick coats and sweaters. Unfortunately, what is meant to keep children safe from the winter chill can also endanger their lives in a car accident.

Child safety experts want parents and caregivers to know that puffy coats and car seats don’t mix.

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According to the Mirror, a simple test can demonstrate how much a thick winter coat interferes with the car seat’s harness. Put the child in his or her full winter gear and buckle him or her into the car seat, tightening the straps as normal.

Next, don’t change the strap tightness, but take the child out of the winter clothing and secure him in the seat again. If the straps are too loose without the coat, then they’re too loose for safety.

Experts warn that bundling a child up in a coat before putting him or her in a car seat prevents the harnesses from working properly. The extra layers of fabric don’t allow the straps to tighten closely enough to the body, and in a crash, the coat will compress, leaving a gap between the harness and the child.

In the moment where it matters the most, the baby is no longer properly restrained.

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Sadly, that seemingly small gap can be a fatal one.

As WNEP News reports, Emma Nizneck of Berwick, Pennsylvania, was in the car with her grandmother when their car hit a utility pole. During the crash, Emma was thrown from the SUV and died from the impact.

Though she had been buckled into her car seat, investigators noticed that Emma did not have the bruising from the seat straps that is usually present when a child is properly secured. Local police say that the heavy coat Emma was wearing likely contributed to her being ejected from the seat during the accident.

This doesn’t mean that parents have to choose between car safety and frostbite, however. While experts recommend that you remove coats and snowsuits before buckling a baby or child into the seat, they can still be kept warm with a blanket.

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After securing the child tightly enough so that two fingers can barely fit under the straps, tuck a blanket over the harness, but no higher than armpit level.

If the child is dressed in thin layers, the blanket should be enough to keep him or her warm. Even better, a toddler can remove the blanket if needed, which isn’t easily done with a coat.

Not only will your children be safer in an accident, but you’ll also help prevent the possibility of overheating. Not to mention save your own sanity from miles of whining and complaints about being too hot. It’s a win-win-win.

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