Being in a motor vehicle accident can be life changing; even more so when you have a small child in the car.
While you can’t predict when or where an accident may occur, you can take precautions to prevent your children from getting hurt; and it starts by understanding and implementing proper car seat guidelines.
Motor vehicle injuries are the #1 leading cause of injury-related death for Canadian children. It’s estimated that over two classrooms of children die in cars every year—not including the thousands that are injured.
The field of child passenger safety changes rapidly, which is why parents (myself included) must keep up to date with changes and developments to car seat safety.
It’s simple: No child, under any circumstance, should ride in a motor vehicle without a car seat or booster seat. The stats are eye opening:
- The use of car seats reduces the risk for death to infants less than 1 year by 71%; and to toddlers aged 1-4 by 54%.
- In children aged 4-8, booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% compared to seat belt use.
These statistics alone are enough for any parent to enforce the use of a car seat. However, child restraint systems are often used incorrectly.
In fact, an estimated 46% of car and booster seats are installed or used improperly, drastically reducing their effectiveness; this is why I encourage parents to not only research what type of car seat to use for their child’s height and weight, but also how to install it properly.
Online videos and tutorials are a great source of information. You can also hire a child passenger safety technician to conduct an inspection.
If you’re interested in getting more hands on, the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada offers a unique training course to provide you with the widest range of information and knowledge available in Canada on child passenger safety.
Know The Stages
As your child grows, the way in which his/her car seat is used changes too.
Be aware of these changes and remember: It’s not about age. Proper car seat use depends more on the height and weight of your child.
Booster Seat Legislation
While booster seats are mandatory in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Yukon, unfortunately the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Alberta do not have booster seat legislation in place.
Personally I think this needs to change.
Child restraint safety should be a priority in every province and is needed to increase the level of children’s safety on Canada’s roads.
If you’re unsure of the laws pertaining to car seats and booster seats in your province, consult this chart.
- Never rush to move your child from one car seat stage to the next. As long as they’re in the correct height and weight range of the seat, they are safest.
- No more than 1 finger should fit between a car seat harness and your child’s body.
- Some child car seats can be used for more than one stage. Be sure to read your car seat user guide for details and proper usage.
- If you’re not sure your car seat is installed correctly, there may be a car seat clinic in your area to have it checked.
- Items that didn’t come with your child’s car seat (trays, comfort straps, etc.) may not be safe to use. Contact the car seat manufacturer to ensure they are.
- As a general rule of thumb, children under 12 are safest in the backseat.
- Always replace a child car seat that was in a motor vehicle accident. Even if your child wasn’t in the seat at the time of the accident, it may be damaged.
- Be aware of your child’s car seat expiry date and replace the seat when necessary.
Tools & Resources
As a personal injury lawyer and a parent to two young children myself, I can’t stress how important car seat guidelines are.
Below is a list of resources I’ve personally consulted throughout the years to keep my kids safe behind the wheel. I invite you to do the same:
- Transport Canada
- Parachute Canada
- The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators/The National Occupant Restraint Program
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Has your child been injured in a motor vehicle accident or by way of a car seat defect? Feel free to reach out to discuss your options and next steps.