Safe and Smiling

Christine Hennebury
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

It may take some effort, but making sure your child's car seat is being used properly is worth the strain

Tina Chaulk, writer, and mother of Sam (4) and Ben (five months), worries about getting her kids from place to place safely.

"I am very vigilant about it and obsessive that the car seat is in there good and tight. Ben is in the infant carrier seat now so I drive my husband nuts asking him to double check that it is clicked in place correctly. It is very important to me because I want to make sure the kids are as safe as they can be at all times."

Tina Chaulk, writer, and mother of Sam (4) and Ben (five months), worries about getting her kids from place to place safely.

"I am very vigilant about it and obsessive that the car seat is in there good and tight. Ben is in the infant carrier seat now so I drive my husband nuts asking him to double check that it is clicked in place correctly. It is very important to me because I want to make sure the kids are as safe as they can be at all times."

Shelley Bauer is president of Kids in Safe Seats, a volunteer organization she founded eight years ago. She acknowledges that proper car seat installation can require effort.

"If it doesn't take two people - or one person sweating with all their might - to put in a car seat, then it's not in right.

"The job of the car seat is to break before the child does. So you have to have the car seat as part of the car so it will take the force of that collision. Parents need to think in terms of safety, not the effort required."

Jane West is district co-ordinator of Buckle-Up Bears, a car-seat inspection program run by Co-operators Insurance. She says 75 per cent of crash-related deaths and injuries can be prevented by using child restraints properly on every trip.

"The kids need to be protected; they can't always speak for themselves. The caregivers who are responsible for getting these children from point A to point B should make sure that they're buckled up safe every time they are in a vehicle."

Chaulk agrees. "I think there are two kinds of people. Those like me who are really careful and take great concern to make sure their kids are in car seats and booster seats at all times, and those who don't seem to be concerned at all."

"I think people think it won't happen to them. I'm pretty sure that will be true with the new booster seat laws and many of those who have already been driving with an older child who isn't in a booster seat may not bother to get a new seat. I've only heard people mention the fine and loss of demerit points that you get if you are caught without a booster but I don't think that should be the incentive. Safety is what is important."

Both Kids in Safe Seats and Buckle-Up Bears offer clinics where parents can come and get their car seats checked to ensure that they are installed properly.

West notes that four out of five seats are installed incorrectly. And she finds that people often do not take the basic steps towards correct installation. "They don't read their directions so they're not sure how to put their seat in, they just get it from a friend or neighbour or whatever. But they really have to be structured on this, because we're talking about the safety of a child."

Bauer agrees, stressing that they find that most seats are just installed too loosely.

"The biggest thing that we find is that the straps aren't tight enough, the tethers aren't tight enough, the seatbelts aren't tight enough. So if you're using a seatbelt, or what's called the latch system or UAS, it needs to be tight."

She cautions, "You've got to remember the force that's put on this seat. A 50-km/h collision, in-town speed, is equivalent to a fall from a third-floor window, so if you're putting your hand on that seat and you can move it two or three inches, think of how much movement it is going to have at 50 km/h. It's going to have a huge amount of movement inside the vehicle. So what you need to do is climb in the seat, put your weight on it, make sure you know how to lock your seatbelt."

Both West and Bauer find that not enough people are using booster seats for older children, as parents seem to be in a hurry to get away from the perceived hassle of car seats.

"I can't believe it," West says, "These children are coming out of their car seats and their parents think they're big enough at three years old and they're put into a regular seatbelt, which is for an adult. They are too small, their bodies are too small. They aren't going to stay in that seatbelt if there is an accident."

Bauer says some parents are frustrated by newer regulations, such as a longer rear-facing period and longer period for booster-seat use.

"People are saying 'Why are you just making it harder for us?' But that isn't it. What we're finding is that more and more we're looking at the size of the child's head and the strength of their neck and the speed of the collisions. The speed of the collisions is getting higher, which means that the force on the person's body in the vehicle is getting more and more."

She reminds parents that the final responsibility is theirs. "If you want your child safe in the car seat, remember that it comes down to you, not me. I can teach you, I can show you, I can try to do my best for you but you have to learn to do it because you are going to be doing it at 2 in the morning."

The best way to protect a child is to follow the car seat/booster seat regulations every time, and to make safety an important part of the daily routine.

Ideally, kids will end up like Sam Chaulk, a partner in their own safety.

"I've never had a problem getting the kids into them and now that my oldest son is four years old, he wouldn't dream of going anywhere in the car without being in his booster with his seatbelt on," his mother said.

For more information on car seat and booster seat safety, visit Kids in Safe Seats - www.kidsinsafeseats.ca or the Buckle-Up Bears Program - http://www.cooperators.ca/en/aboutus/corpresp/2_3_1_3.html.

Strap 'em in

Shelley Bauer from Kids in Safe Seats offers the following guidelines for car-seat safety.

Pick a car seat that's safe to use. It doesn't have to be a brand new car seat; it can be one that someone has given to you, but you do need to check it for recalls and expiry dates, make sure that you get the instruction booklet and that all the parts are there. And if somebody cleaned it, make sure they put all the parts back together properly.

Buy a seat that is easy to use - you are more likely to use it right. Don't select a seat that is inconvenient to adjust as your child grows.

Make sure your car seat fits the stage the child is in rather than trying to make do with an all-in-one. It is much easier to buy a car seat to fit your child than to make your child fit the car seat. You can get one that changes from rear to front-facing at first, and, then, in a couple of years get a booster seat. Realistically, you will have spent the same amount of money but you will have had a car seat that fits your child all the way through.

Always read the seat instructions and your car manual.

Infant Seat rear facing

car seatbelt threaded through proper path

seatbelt locked (check your manual)

less than 1 inch of side-to-side movement where seatbelt is threaded

handle down (make sure it clicks)

seat at 45-degree angle

straps at or below the shoulders

straps tight (only one finger width between strap and child)

no heavy clothes (wrap seat and all instead of dressing child in heavy clothes)

Toddlers (over 1 year, over 22 lbs. and walking)

forward facing

seatbelt threaded through proper path

seatbelt locked (check manual)

less than 1 inch of side-to-side movement where seatbelt is threaded

straps are at or above shoulder height

use tether strap

straps tight (only one finger width between strap and child)

no heavy clothes

Booster Seat (for children 40 lbs. and over)

must be used if children are under 80 lbs., and/or under 4 feet 9 inches tall and/or under nine years old. Children must meet all criteria to use an adult seatbelt safely.

forward facing

check manufacturer instructions for tethering requirement

use car seatbelt, making sure it sits on the child's collarbone and hipbones

use high-back seats if your child is hard to restrain in the car, their ears are above the seat back in the car, or that there are no headrests

Organizations: Buckle-Up, Co-operators Insurance

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Charlie
    May 13, 2013 - 17:23

    When looking for insurance in Newfoundland I feel it is important to explore all of your options, because you want to know what exactly you are paying for.

  • Marg
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    This is a great article and we will definitely use it because we have a brand new baby in the househould.

    Thanks to the author Tina.

  • Mel
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    I think this is a great article as well... I have friends who used to think I was being silly telling them their car seats were too loose and wobbly - you really have to take the extra few minutes out of your time to make sure it's done right. It's really worth it because you never know when an accident could happen. If you are not installing it right, it's like putting your baby in the car without a car seat at all.

  • jason
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    We picked up a britax marathon car seat for a little one and its the best $300 I have ever spent. The cheap seats dont compare in terms of stability and easy of install. The install is so tight you can rock teh seat and the car rocks too.

  • Nikki
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Stories like this one needs to be printed weekly. Hundreds of our children are riding around in cars and trucks and are not buckled in safely.
    Thank-You for keeping this topic on the four front

  • Marg
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    This is a great article and we will definitely use it because we have a brand new baby in the househould.

    Thanks to the author Tina.

  • Mel
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    I think this is a great article as well... I have friends who used to think I was being silly telling them their car seats were too loose and wobbly - you really have to take the extra few minutes out of your time to make sure it's done right. It's really worth it because you never know when an accident could happen. If you are not installing it right, it's like putting your baby in the car without a car seat at all.

  • jason
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    We picked up a britax marathon car seat for a little one and its the best $300 I have ever spent. The cheap seats dont compare in terms of stability and easy of install. The install is so tight you can rock teh seat and the car rocks too.

  • Nikki
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    Stories like this one needs to be printed weekly. Hundreds of our children are riding around in cars and trucks and are not buckled in safely.
    Thank-You for keeping this topic on the four front