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Car seat safety for children

When it comes to your children’s safety, you can never be careful enough. Do everything you can to keep your children as safe as possible while on the road by installing and using car seats properly. Read on to learn about car seat safety for your children.

Mom putting baby in car seat

Every year approximately 10,000 children are hurt or injured in car accidents in Canada. Remember that the back seat of your vehicle is the safest place for your kids. There are four car safety stages for kids — rear-facing seats, forward-facing seats, booster seats and seat belts. With each type of car seat, use it until your child outgrows the seat’s specific weight and height limits.

Rear-facing seats

Rear-facing car seats are required for infants. These seats are placed at a 45-degree angle to insure your child’s head is supported and that he/she can breathe well. Don’t rush your child out of a rear-facing seat — they are the safest alternative. Some newer rear-facing seats will hold children up to 20 kg (45 lbs).

Forward-facing car seats

Forward-facing car seats are best for older children who have stronger muscles in their back and neck. Forward-facing seats are generally for children who weigh more than 10 kg (22 lbs). However, if your rear-facing seat can hold larger children, use it as long as possible until your child outgrows the limitations. Read your car owner’s manual and the child seat’s instruction guide to learn how to install the child seat properly. New car seat regulations are causing manufacturers to create forward-facing car seats with a maximum allowable weight limit of 30 kg; the previous maximum was 22 kg.

Booster seats

Booster seats are for older children who weigh at least 18 kg (40 lbs). If your child still fits in his forward-facing seat, don’t move to a booster. The forward-facing seat is safer. Always use both the lap belt and the shoulder belt with a booster seat. Try to leave as much space as possible between the booster seat and the seat in front of it. New car seat regulations have introduced dynamic testing requirements for booster seats to make them more safe.

Installing the car seat

Car seats can be secured in your car using:

UAS – The Universal Anchorage System (UAS) is available on some vehicles. Your car owner’s manual will show you where to find the anchors to secure your child’s car seat.

Seat belt only – If your seat belts have a built-in locking feature, you can use the seat belts only to secure your child’s car seat.

Seat belt + locking clip – If your seat belts don’t have a locking feature, you can use the seat belts combined with a locking clip or built-in lock off. Your car owner’s manual and the child seat instructions will tell you how to do this.

The space between the top of your child’s head and the top of the car seat should be at least 2.5 cm (1 inch). And to keep your child safe and secure, you should only be able to fit one finger between the harness and your child’s collarbone.

After reading your vehicle owner’s manual and car seat instruction guide, if you are still not sure how to install your child seat correctly, attend a car seat clinic in your community to have it checked. Call your local hospital or police station for information on where the clinics are being held in your area.

Keep in mind that child seats have expiration dates. Replace your seat when it expires, if you have been in an accident or if the seat or shell has been damaged.

Seat belts

Children 12 and under should always ride in the back seat using an appropriate car seat or seat belt. Children who are tall enough can use a seat belt. A child should be able to sit up straight with his/her back against the vehicle seat. The shoulder belt should rest on the shoulder — it should not cross the neck or slip under the arm. The lap belt should fit snug around your child’s hips — not across the stomach. To use a seat belt, your child’s feet must reach the floor.

Specific car seat requirements in Canada vary by territory or province. Refer to your local statutes as to when your child can legally move to a seat belt. For more information on car seat safety, visit Transport Canada.

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