By Jamie Leary

DENVER (CBS4)– With cold weather and snow forecasted for the weekend, the Colorado Department of Transportation is reminding drivers that puffy coats can be dangerous for children in car seats.

“You get a false sense of security that that is actually tight because of that puffy jacket,” said Colorado State Patrol Trooper Tim Sutherland.

kids car seats 5pkg frame 60 Car Seat Safety: Remove Puffy Coats Before Strapping Kids In

(credit: CBS)

“Of course, parents have good intentions when they bundle their children up before getting in the car,” said Tim Sutherland, Child Passenger Safety Coordinator for Car Seats Colorado. “But it’s important to recognize that car seats are only effective when used correctly, and unfortunately this is one of the more common mistakes we see.”

kids car seats 5pkg frame 540 Car Seat Safety: Remove Puffy Coats Before Strapping Kids In

(credit: CBS)

Sutherland is the Child Passenger Safety Coordinator for Car Seats Colorado, a program funded by CDOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA). Sutherland knows the importance of car seat safety on a personal level. As a child, he was nearly killed in horrific accident.

“I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt,” Sutherland continued, “My dad and I both went through the windshield. I remember waking up in the back of an ambulance, I couldn’t see anything.”

kids car seats 5pkg frame 505 Car Seat Safety: Remove Puffy Coats Before Strapping Kids In

(credit: CBS)

Today, Sutherland shares his story and continues to educate anyone who will listen.

“I have seen accidents where car seats weren’t installed correctly and the car seat and the baby both end up in the front seat, but the baby is 100 percent okay because the baby was in the harness.”

kids car seats 5pkg frame 1316 Car Seat Safety: Remove Puffy Coats Before Strapping Kids In

(credit: CBS)

Experts say while many parents and caregivers are cognizant of car seat safety, many overlook the dangers a simple puffy coat can present.

“Of course parents have good intentions when they bundle their children up before getting in the car,” Sutherland. “But it’s important to recognize that car seats are only effective when used correctly, and unfortunately this is one of the more common mistakes we see.”

kids car seats 5pkg frame 1995 Car Seat Safety: Remove Puffy Coats Before Strapping Kids In

(credit: CBS)

If you’re not sure your child’s coat is too bulky, CDOT has put together a list of tips:

How do you know if your child’s coat is too bulky?

Put the coat on your child and strap them into their car seat. Tighten the harness until you can’t pinch any excess strap between your thumb and forefinger (this is the “pinch test” to make sure the harness is tight enough).

Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the car seat.

Take the coat off, put your child back in the car seat and buckle the harness.

Now try the pinch test again  if you can pinch excess fabric on the shoulder strap then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.

Here’s what to do instead:

For infants and smaller children, put a blanket over the child in the car seat to keep them warm. Do not cover the entire car seat with the blanket  this can restrict air flow and may lead to carbon dioxide poisoning.

For toddlers and older children, you can put a blanket over the child after they’ve been strapped into the harness, or turn their jacket around and put their arms through it backward to keep warm.

Be very careful not to overheat your child  a baby bundled up with blankets in the car while the heat is blasting can quickly lead to overheating.

Learn more about how to keep children safe in vehicles and find out where to get a free car seat inspection at CarSeatsColorado.com.

Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.

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