Does your child fit properly in their car seat?

Wheatley says covering your child with a blanket while they're in their car seat is a safe alternative to bulky winter coats. (WTHI Photo, Tony Kassissieh)
Wheatley says covering your child with a blanket while they're in their car seat is a safe alternative to bulky winter coats. (WTHI Photo, Tony Kassissieh)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Bitter cold has hit the Wabash Valley.

But, did you know bundling kids up in winter gear changes how they fit in a car seat?

That can lead to chest, head, or neck injuries, or worse.

Safe Kids Coordinator with Chances and Services for Youth, Julie Wheatley explains.

She says, “Crash test studies show all that extra gap in the harness. What is going to happen is that baby is much more likely to be ejected. They may come flying right out of the coat, okay? It is a very serious error and it needs to be taken seriously.”

Wheatley says a bulky winter coat for your child is deceiving.

She demonstrated putting a child in a safety seat for News 10.

Wheatley explains, “We want to make sure we can’t pinch any webbing together. Now I’d already snugged this up so we know we can’t pinch any webbing. He’s nice and snug. No twisted straps, and you’ve got the harness clip at arm pit level, so I think my child is riding nice and safely.”

But a quick test removing the coat proves otherwise.

She says, “Straps are exactly where they were when he had the snowsuit on. And look at all this loose harness, okay? Look at that. Just from having that snowsuit on.”

There were several inches between the doll’s body and the straps of the car seat.

Wheatley says she’s heard every excuse in the book why parents insist their kids wear the coats.

She says, “They got this nice pretty pink snow suit at a baby shower. Or, you know, they were just convinced that the baby is so cold they need to be bundled up, they’re not going to take the chance of their little one getting cold. They worry about the walk from the house to the car.”

It’s all with good intentions, however there are safer practices to follow.

Wheatley suggests, “Go out and warm up your car first. Then you can put your baby in first, wearing a regular jacket. Put the coat on backwards around the baby, or just tuck some blankets around.”

It may take a few more minutes each trip, but the results could last a life time.

The Coordinator says, “You never know when you’re going to be in a wreck, and you never know what’s going to happen. These are easy steps to take and there’s no reason not to take them.”

Wheatley says kids in booster seats can’t be overlooked.

She says those children benefit by having a seat belt that will lock up immediately on impact.

But, Wheatley warns that anything between your child and the harness or belt will allow extra movement, creating a risk.

There are a few locations to have a car seat checked out locally which includes:

  • Riley Fire Department (812) 894-3610
  • Honey Creek Fire Department (812) 299-2244
  • Chances and Services for Youth (812) 232-3952


Original Story: TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Temperatures have dropped in the Wabash Valley.

If you haven’t already, it means breaking out the coats, gloves, boots, and scarves.

However, officials are urging parents to pay extra attention to their children when taking them on the road. They’re especially concerned about children fitting into their car seats properly.

Officials say a thick winter coat adds space between the harness of a car seat and the child’s body.

That can increase the risk of injury, especially to their chest, head, and neck.

News 10’s Lacey Clifton is speaking with Julie Wheatley, who’s the Program Coordinator for CASY’s Safe Kids of Vigo County program.

She’ll have the details tonight on WTHI.