The Important Things To Know About Car Seat Safety

Mistakes to avoid and tips for success to help protect little ones in the car

A child sitting in a car seat.

A child’s safety is the number one priority of parents. Whether they’re learning to walk, swim or ride a bike, parents always need to take the necessary precautions to ensure their kids are safe. Driving with your children should be no different and using the right child car seat is the best way to prevent serious injury.

Why the Failure rate is high

People tend to believe that they know how to properly install their child’s car seat. But the problem is that they often don’t, says Amanda MacDonald, a member of the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada (CPSAC). A parent of a newborn may have forgotten the rules they once knew when driving their older children years ago. Or they may have always held onto mistaken beliefs. Either way, the car seat manual is never opened, and dangerous assumptions prevail.

“That’s where mistakes happen,” says MacDonald, who’s been conducting car seat roadside tests, programs and clinics for the past six years. According to the CPSAC, approximately 80 per cent of Canadians aren’t installing or using children’s car seats correctly. In fact, a roadside test in Kingston had a 100% failure rate, despite multiple car seat programs in the city. People who seek out support become informed but those who don’t, likely think they got this, MacDonald explains of the discrepancy.

Constable Giancarlo Marrelli of Toronto Police Service (TPS), Traffic Services is equally concerned. He shares how Toronto Police ran their first round of car seat spot checks this year. The results from their first check found 30 failures out of 39 cars pulled over. The second saw 20 failures out of 24 car seats checked. “We know there’s an issue,” he says. “And every failure impedes the safety of a child.”

He adds that, beyond safety concerns, improperly securing a child in their seat can also result in a $250 fine and two demerit points upon conviction. And a recurring failure to comply could find a parent summoned to court.

Common mistakes to avoid

A frequent error that parents make is not properly adjusting the harness and ensuring it’s tight enough. In the winter months, this issue becomes even more serious, says MacDonald, who shares that bulky clothing can sometimes get in the way.

Car seats may also be too old—they do have expiry dates—and not as functional, shares Marrelli. Also common are installation issues. A parent may remember to weave the seat belt through the safety seat but then forget to lock it. The child can then be thrown about the car.

CPSAC also found that 30 per cent of kids in booster seats did not meet the 40-pound weight minimum, while 52 per cent of kids in seat belts did not fit safely without a booster seat.

Knowledge is power

To educate parents, CPSAC and MacDonald help TPS run their car seat clinics. “I can’t imagine my child getting hurt because of something I did wrong,” says Marrelli, a father of two, who spearheaded the program. “It’s something we can do as a service, which is great.” During the clinics—which run monthly and require parents to book an appointment—technicians demonstrate how to properly install the seat and then ask parents to repeat the steps themselves.

CPSAC also has certified technicians across the country and provides online support. Any and all support is crucial, MacDonald says, adding that collisions are the leading cause of death in Canadian children and properly used car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 per cent. Reaching out to the larger community for help can make the difference. “It takes a village to raise a child,” she says. “That village is out there.”

Helpful hints

When using a car or booster seat, read the requirements and instructions carefully to ensure that it’s installed correctly in your car. An improperly secured car seat won’t provide the full level of protection that your child needs.

Parents having trouble installing a child car seat or looking for more information can contact their local public health unit, fire department or police service. If you live in Toronto and would like to have your child’s car seat checked follow @TrafficServices on Twitter for information on upcoming car seat clinics.

MTO has great information on their website for more resources and installation tips, as well as helpful videos like this one.

Keep reading

Click here and here to learn how CAA is helping to improve school-zone safety. Plus, learn about the important CAA resource that’s helping kids learn the rules of the road.

Image credit: istock.com/Reptile8488
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