SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) - As the cold weather creeps into central Illinois local law enforcement and health officials want to remind parents about car seat safety tips.
Bundling kids up for the cold is important, but once inside the car parents need to remember to take their child's coat off. Patrol Deputy Seth Major, Macon County Sheriff's Office, is certified in child safety seat technician and said when a child isn't put into their seat correctly there can be serious consequences.
"I don't even want to think about it," he said. "There will definitely be some internal injuries to the child's neck and head."
Deputy Major wants to remind parents that kids should not wear heavy, puffy coats while in their safety seats.
"A lot of parents don't know," he explained. "That's why we try to get out and let them (parents) know."
Along with Deputy Major, Susan O'Connor is the Patient and Community Educator for the Women and Infant Center at HSHS St. John's Children's Hospital and said crash forces are intense, so making sure kids are snug in their seats is a top priority.
"When you introduce extra padding like a puffy coat or for infants, like a bundle me, anything like that will compress very quickly in a crash and create space," she said.
O'Connor described it like a space bag, think of it big and full, just like the puffy coat or thick fleece bundle me in an infants car seat. When a crash happens the air inside that coat will compress, just like the vacuum does on the space bag.
"That snug harness that used to seem very tight, there's a big gap there and that's enough with the force of the crash to push the child through the harness straps."
For 19 years O'Connor has helped educator parents about the safety steps they need to take. She recalled while going through training she was one of those parents who thought she knew everything and was shocked to find out she, too had done some things wrong.
"Every single trip, it's important to make sure that they (child) are secured to the vehicle and their harnessed correctly."
Parents should put their child in a thin fleece or sweater. For infants, it's best to harness them in then swaddled them around the harness. O'Connor said parents can even place a blanket on top of their child's car seat to block the wind. Other parents have also put their children in ponchos so they are able to pull them back of the material over the car seats.
"When we are secured properly then we have a better chance of what we call riding down the crash and being protected by all of those safety items," said O'Connor.
Car seat fitting in Springfield can happen through the Illinois Secretary of State, but by appointment only. Parents interested should call 1-866-247-0213 and ask for Technician Chris. The Illinois Department of Transportation holds a safety seat check every first and third Thursday (9 a.m. - 3 p.m.) at Green Hyundai Dealership off of North Dirksen Parkway.
Upcoming in Springfield, on Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. parents can go to Fire Station 1 on East Capitol Avenue or on Dec. 13 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
For a list of car seat checks in different counties or for more information click here. HSHS St. John's Children's Hospital has resources available for parents, in addition to car seat recall lists, click here to learn more.