Car Seats: Is Your Child Safe?

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4 min.

Did you know that one in two children is not safe in their car seat?1 Find out if you have the right one and if it’s properly installed.

Choosing the right car seat for your child is important to ensure their safety in case of an accident and reduce the risk of injury or death.

And after you’ve chosen a car seat, installing it correctly is also very important. It needs to be properly installed on the seat, as well as adjusted for your child’s height and weight.

Keep reading for more information you need to know about your child’s car seat.

The right seat for each stage of growth

As children grow, there are three stages they’ll go through before they can start wearing just a seat belt:

Stage 1: Rear-facing seats

By law, children must be buckled into a rear-facing seat at least until they are at least one year old, are over 10 kg (22 lbs) and can walk on their own. Vanessa Olsen, a child passenger safety consultant, says that the SAAQ recommends that children stay in this stage until they are 2 years old, or until they’ve outgrown a convertible car seat.

Stage 2: Forward-facing seats

Then you can progress to the forward-facing child car seat stage until the child reaches the weight limit for the seat, which is normally 29 kg (65 lbs).

Stage 3: Booster seats

Once children have reached 18 kg (40 lbs), you can start thinking about switching to a booster seat. However, it is very important that they reach this weight first. If your little one weighs less than 18 kg, it’s not safe for them to be using a booster seat yet.

But that’s not all. “Children also need to have reached a certain level of maturity. If they can’t understand that it’s important to sit up straight in their seat for the whole car ride, or if they tend to fall to one side when they fall asleep, it’s better to wait before switching to a booster seat.

Most companies indicate a minimum age of 4 years, but the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada prefers to wait until the child is 5 years old,” says Vanessa Olsen.

How to correctly install the car seat

It is important to have a good car seat, but it is even more important to make sure it is correctly installed. By taking the time to correctly install your child’s car seat, you can reduce the risk of serious injury or death in an accident by 71%.

Always follow these steps:

  • Install the car seat on the backseat – this is the safest spot.
  • Position the car seat away from the vehicle’s air bags.
  • Attach the seat using the car’s Universal Anchorage System (UAS) strap or the seatbelt. Both options are equally safe.
  • Position the baby seat so that it is rear-facing – this is the safest position.
  • Before turning the car seat so that it is front-facing, make sure that your child meets the height and weight requirements.
  • Make sure you closely follow the installation and safety instructions contained in the car seat’s manual.

Best practices

  • Always choose a car seat certified by Transport Canada.
  • Do not leave a child under one year of age in a car seat for more than an hour. As needed, take breaks to move the child and change his/her position.
  • Children under 12 years of age should sit in the back seat. By sitting away from the front of the vehicle, they will be safer in the event of a front-end collision.
  • Following an accident, always replace the car seat, whether or not it was affected by the accident. Your insurance company will usually cover the cost.

Is your car seat expired?

Car seats do in fact have expiration dates. This date tells you when the seat should be changed so that it remains effective. The useful life of a car seat can vary from one model to the next, and is usually between six and ten years. If your car seat is expired, do not use it.

The expiration date is usually indicated on a sticker or moulded onto the seat. It’s a good idea to keep the instruction manual in a safe place so you can check information about the life of the car seat.

When in doubt, have it checked out!

Did you know that there’s a network of Child Passenger Safety Technicians in Canada? The technicians are trained in all the best practices to ensure children’s safety by a non-profit organization called the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada.

If you need help figuring out how to install your child’s car seat, check out the organization’s interactive map to find a technician available in your area. 

And finally, how do your know when your child no longer needs a booster seat?

Usually, children over the age of 9 and over 145 cm tall no longer need booster seats. However, parents need to make sure that seat belts fit their children properly. And this (very important) fit can vary not just from one vehicle to another, but from seat to seat within the vehicle. For example, it might be that your child doesn’t need a booster seat in a small car, but does need one in a larger vehicle.

If your child doesn’t need a booster seat anymore, the seatbelt, when fastened, should pass over the child's hips and through the middle of the collarbone. It should also be touching your child’s shoulder. If you’re not sure, you can always check with a child passenger safety technician.

We’d like to thank Vanessa Olsen, child passenger safety technician, for reviewing this article.

1 Source: Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec

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