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SALT LAKE CITY — During the winter, parents need to think twice before strapping their child into a car seat with a puffy coat on. Chances are the coat is putting the child in danger. New safety changes to the LATCH system are coming in 2014.
It's cold - you're in a hurry - and you strap your child into his or her car seat with a puffy winter coat on. It's a scenario many parents are familiar with, but there is a hidden danger.
"That puffy coat in a crash could compress leaving a lot of space in that car seat, causing the child to move forward and or come out of the seat," said Stacy Johnson, Zero Fatalities spokesperson.
To show just how much room can be created by a puffy coat or vest check out this Chicago mom's post on Youtube.
"Sometimes with the puffy coat or bulky coat, we might not be able to tell if it's tight on the shoulders and so we think they're snug when really they are not," Johnson said.
In the event of a crash (the harness) distributes the crash forces over the entire body of the child.
–Stacy Johnson, spokesperson, Zero Fatalities
Another common car seat mistake is the placement of the straps.
"If the child is rear-facing, it needs to be at or below their shoulders, but if the child is forward-facing then the harness needs to change and the straps need to be above the child," Johnson said.
When it comes to how tight the harness needs to be here's a helpful tip: if you can pinch the strap, it's too loose. And the chest clip needs to be at armpit level.
"In the event of a crash, (the harness) distributes the crash forces over the entire body of the child," Johnson said.
A big change in car seat safety is coming 2014 and it involves the LATCH system.
Starting in January, if a child and car seat have a combined weight of 65 pounds, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises parents to stop using the anchors because their strength cannot be guaranteed.
Instead, use the seat belt to secure the car seat, and also check to make sure the child still fits in it.
"If your child's forward-facing car seat goes to 40 pounds (and the child weighs more than 40 pounds) then they need to transfer into a booster seat," Johnson said.
Child seats weigh roughly anywhere from 15-35 pounds, so if your child weighs more than 30 pounds, you should check your car seat manual to see if you need a new seat. Also, check your car manual to find out how much strength your latch system can take — not all vehicles are the same.