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Car seat clinic helps children get home safely

Deanna Lindsay, SEATS for Kids executive director, examines Amanda Weller's car seat with child restraint technician Sherrie Williams and instructor Laurie Alton.

Parents and caregivers generally make sure children are buckled up when they are in a vehicle – but are they truly safe?
Deanna Lindsay, executive director with SEATS for Kids Canada, says no, they are not always safe because in many cases, parents and caregivers do not have knowlege of the correct use of child restraint systems.
This morning, the local Children’s Aid Society and SEATS for Kids are co-hosting a car seat clinic with the PEC Fire Department from 9 a.m. to noon.
Transport Canada reports that every year, 10,000 children under the age of 12 are injured in collisions. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children and youth according to the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program.
When vehicles pull up at the car seat clinic the child restraint systems technicians assess the seat, examine the harness, note how well the seat is installed in the vehicle, look for public notices and recalls, expiration or see if it has been involved in a collision. Then, they re-install the seat and educate the parent or caregiver on its proper use.
The most common mistakes?
Lindsay says the most common errors are by people not making the harness tight enough to the child and not making the seat itself tight enough to the vehicle.
“People also want to move the child up to the next level of restraint too quickly,” she said “And that is incredibly dangerous.”
Some of the worst examples she’s seen over the years include people using boards and pop bottles filled with rocks to gain the proper angle and people using cargo racheting hooks.
“One of the worst things I’ve seen was somebody who had pulled down a trunk access seat and called it a booster seat. In a collision, that child would have been drawn into the trunk.”

Visit SEATS (Safety, Education, Advocacy, Training, Support) for Kids at

These Frequently Asked Questions from the site:
Q: When can I turn my baby forward-facing?

A: SEATS for Kids recommends that you keep your baby/toddler facing the back of the car for as long as is reasonably possible. There is ample evidence that rear-facing is substantially safer than forward-facing. Young children have big, heavy heads and the bones in their spines do not ossify until between 3 and 6 years of age. In a collision a tremendous amount of stress is placed on the neck and spine of a forward-facing child greatly increasing the risk of serious injury or death. Generally this means leaving your child rear-facing up to the maximum weight or height limit allowed on a convertible car seat (the kind that can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing). There are now car seats available in Canada that can be used rear-facing up to 45 lbs.

New federal regulations stipulate that the absolute minimum requirement for turning your child forward-facing is that they be 22 lbs and walking unassisted. Most car seats also require that a child be at least one year of age to be forward-facing, and some seats have a higher minimum weight for forward-facing.

Q: My son’s legs are touching the back of the seat rear-facing. Don’t I need to turn him around?

A: NO. Children are very flexible and it is very rare for a child to complain that their legs are uncomfortable when rear-facing, no matter how long they are. There is no real danger of legs being injured when rear-facing (in fact, leg injuries are more common when forward-facing), but even if there was a leg injury, legs are easily fixed – necks are not.

Q: My daughter is 4, but only 30 lbs. Should I keep her in a harness or can she move into a booster seat?

A: Children MUST stay in a five point restraint until they are 40 lbs, regardless of age. No booster seats are legal for use at a weight below 40 lbs. Being in a five point harness is safer for younger children as it distributes the force of impact to the bony structures of the body – the chest, shoulders, and hips. A five point restraint, when used correctly, will aslo keep the child’s body from moving excessively in a collision, reducing the possibility of head and neck injury.

Q: How can I tell if my child is ready for a booster seat?

A: Children can’t legally sit in a booster until they are 40 lbs, but even when they hit 40 lbs they dont have to be switched. The purpose of a booster seat is to position the seat belt properly on the child. If the seat belt is not positioned properly AT ALL TIMES, then your child isn’t protected. So in addition to weighing 40 lbs, consider the following:

* Will your child sit still all the time so that the seat belt is always positioned properly? If your child moves around a lot, plays with the seat belt, reaches over for things etc, then they are not ready for a booster. You may try a booster and find you need to switch back to a harness if your child can’t sit still.
* When your child falls asleep in the car in a booster do they tip over forward or sideways? If so then the seat belt will be out of position and not properly protecting your child. Children put in boosters too early tend to flop over when they sleep; a child that is ready for a booster will basically stay in the proper position when they fall asleep, similar to an adult.

Some people will start out using a booster for short trips to get their child used to the proper behaviour and to judge whether they are ready to switch full time.There are five point restraints on the market that can be used up to 65 lbs forward-facing, so there is no need to switch before they are really ready. Generally speaking, no three year old is ready to sit in a booster, the rare four year old might be, and most kids can start trying it out around the age of five.

Q: When can my child stop using a booster seat?

A: The law in Ontario states that children need to be in a booster seat until they are eight years old OR 80 lbs OR 4 feet 9 inches. However, even if they have reached one of these milestones the most important consideration is whether they actually fit in a seat belt without a booster. A child can safely move to using the seat belt if they pass the 5-step test (in addition to meeting one of the legal requirements):

1. The child can sit all the way back against the back of the vehicle seat.
2. Knees bend comfortably over the edge of the vehicle seat without slouching.
3. The lap portion of the seat belt fits snugly across the top of the thighs and doesn’t ride up on the stomach.
4. The shoulder belt goes across the chest bone and the middle of the shoulder, NOT across the neck and never behind the back.
5. The child can sit properly for the entire trip.

Please note that your child may pass this test in one vehicle but not in another.

Q: What is wrong with buying a used car seat?

A: Car seats are an important piece of safety equipment and should be considered single-owner items. You do not know the history of the seat and have no way of knowing if it is truly safe to use. Some consignment stores sell car seats that are used with a waiver signed by the seller stating that it has never been in a collision, but there are NO guarantees. A fall from a high shelf while in storage or abuse from being checked as luggage on an airplane can cause the same or worse damage as a collision.

Q: Why do car seats expire?

A: Car seats expire because:
* Frequent use and exposure to sunlight or cold weather can damage and weaken plastic
* Safe-use labels on the products fade or become hard to read
* Instruction manuals have likely been lost
* Food, cleaners, drinks, and other materials that have been spilled or used on webbing, buckles, adjusters and other parts may prevent them from working safely
* The history or condition of the car seat or booster seat becomes hard to check (was it in a collision, was it stored in a place or in a way that caused damage to parts, etc?)
* Safety regulations and standards may have changed, so safer products may now be on the market
* Second or subsequent owners may not get product safety recall notices if problems arise

This list is from a Transport Canada Consumer Information Notice.

Q: Can you re-certify a recently expired or used car seat?

A: No, Car seats cannot be re-certified for use. Once they are expired, they belong in the garbage and should not be used. Anyone giving away or selling a used car seat that is expired would be liable for any injury that may occur to the child put into that seat.

Q. What should I do with my old car seat that is no longer safe to use?

A: When disposing of an old car seat, do whatever you can to make it unusable so that no one will pick it up from the curb and use it. Yes, people do that. Cut and remove the straps, take off the cover, write “EXPIRED” or “CRASHED” or “NOT SAFE TO USE” on the shell of the seat with a marker. Feel free to bash it in a little if you like and put it in garbage bags.

Q: What is the best seat currently on the market?

A: All seats for sale in Canada are tested to the same safety standards. The “best” seat is not the same for all children or all vehicles. The best seat is the one that fits your child, fits your car, and that you will use correctly EVERY TIME. If you have trouble using the harness and won’t take the time to do it up properly every time, then that is not a good seat for you. The cost of the seat is not a reliable indicator of what is best. If the most expensive seat on the market doesn’t fit your child properly or doesn’t install well in your car, then it is useless. Likewise the ratings of seats that can be found from various sources are generally not a good basis for deciding what seat to buy. There are too many factors involved. Ideally you should buy your seat from a store that will let you try to install the floor model in your vehicle first so you can see how it fits. If that is not possible, ask about the return policy. Do NOT ever return a seat that you have actually used, even just for a day, unless there is something wrong with it (in which case you must tell the store that it has been used and what the problem is). Treat the seat with care, try it in your vehicle, and return it promptly if it won’t work for you.

Q: What is the safest position to install the child restraint in the car?

A: The middle position of the back seat is usually the safer position to install a car seat, but not always. If there is a bump in the vehicle seat or a fold down arm rest or a lap-only belt (for use with a booster – boosters must only be used with lap-shoulder belts), or if the seat does not install well in the middle for any other reason, then it is not safer.

Please note that most vehicles DO NOT have UAS anchors dedicated for the centre seating position. Whether you can “borrow” the anchors from the two outboard seating positions depends on whether this is allowed by both the child restraint manufacturer AND the vehicle manufacturer. Always read the instructions for both the child restraint and your vehicle. Most of the time you will need to use the seat belt to do an installation in the centre of the back seat.

Q: Can I put my child in the front seat with their booster seat?

A: NO. You cannot put a booster seat in front of an active air bag. Advanced air bags that use sensors to determine the weight of the person in the front seat CANNOT be relied upon to prevent the air bag from deploying while your child is in the front seat.

Q: When can my child start riding in the front seat of the car?

A: Transport Canada recommends keeping all children under 13 years of age in the back seat. This is of particular importance in cars that have air bags in the front seat, as front air bags can cause serious injuries to children. Advanced air bags that use sensors to determine the weight of the person in the front seat CANNOT be relied upon to prevent the air bag from deploying while your child is in the front seat.

Q: Why can’t I use a car seat purchased in the United States?

A: Car seats sold in the United States are tested to a different standard than car seats sold in Canada. While an American seat will often seem identical to one sold in Canada, there often actually is a difference in the two seats. In addition, an American seat will not have all of the labels required for safety purposes (e.g. labels will be in English and Spanish instead of English and French). It is not legal to use a seat purchased outside of Canada and S.E.A.T.S. for Kids will not install a non-Canadian seat. A seat that is legal for use in Canada will have a sticker with the National Safety Mark on the seat.

Filed Under: Local News


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