You’d do anything to keep your children safe; at home, at school, and on the playground. But it’s the car where some of the most care is needed. According to Transport Canada, every year in Canada about 9,000 children (14-years old and younger) are hurt or killed on the roads in accidents.

Car Seats: Your Child’s Best Protection

When installed and used properly, child car seats and booster seats can help reduce the risk of a child being injured or killed in a collision. However, in an interview with CTV’s Canada AM, certified car seat installation technician Maureen Dennis said that as many as 80% of parents are improperly installing car seats. She also said that a report from the Canadian Paediatric Society indicated that a correctly installed car seat can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71%, and the risk of serious injury by 67%.

A Car Seat Primer

There are four stages to car seat safety for your children: rear-facing seats, forward-facing seats, booster seats, and finally seat belts.

Car seat stages chart

Infants & Toddlers: Rear-Facing Car Seats

According to Parachute, a national charitable organization that brings attention to the issue of preventable injury, newborns and infants are required by Canadian law to use a rear-facing car seat. And although the laws vary slightly by province, in general, a rear-facing car seat should be used until the child is at least 22 pounds, walking on their own and one year of age. However, it’s typically recommended that children stay in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible as rear-facing seats offer your child the best protection in an accident.

Tip: Don’t be in a rush to graduate your child into the next car seat stage. As long they are still in the right weight/height range of the seat, they are safest in a rear-facing car seat.

Toddlers & Preschoolers: Forward-Facing Car Seats

Don’t rush to move your child into the forward-facing car seat stage. As long they are still in the right weight/height range of the seat, they are safest in a rear-facing car seat. However, once it’s time for a forward-facing car seat, look for one that will meet the weight and height conditions of your child for as long as possible. The longer they’re in a forward-facing seat (before graduating to a booster seat) the better.

Tip: Position the forward-facing car seat in the middle seat location in the back; this is the safest spot. If you have more than one child, place the youngest in this location.

School-Aged Children: Booster Seats

Once your child has met the height and weight limits of the forward-facing seat, it’s time to look to booster seats. Booster seats raise a child higher so that the adult seat belt works more effectively; the lap and shoulder strap will sit on your child in the correct position. Without the booster seat, the seat belt rides too high.

Did you know? Booster seats protect children against serious injury three and a half times better than seat belts alone.

Booster seats can be high-backed or low-backed. Research shows that a high-backed booster seat is safest, but if you go with a low-backed booster, Transport Canada says the vehicle must have adjustable head restraints as they’ll protect your child’s head and neck in a crash.

School-Aged Children: Seat Belts

Once your child has outgrown the need for a booster seat, make sure they’re buckled in every time they’re in the car and buckled up properly. Also, they should sit in the back seats for optimal safety.

Car Seat Tips

No matter what type of car seat your child is using, remember:

  • Never rush to the next car seat stage. As long they are still in the right weight/height range of the seat, they are safest in the stage they’re in.
  • Buy your car seat in Canada. Car seats in Canada must have a National Safety Mark label attached to it, signifying that the seat complies with Canadian regulations and standards.
  • Car seats have expiry dates. Over time the integrity of a car seat can diminish, so heed the car seat’s expiry date and replace it when needed.
  • Replace a car seat that has been involved in a collision; even a minor accident can compromise the product’s integrity.
  • Complete the registration card that comes with the seat so that if there’s a recall the car seat manufacturer can contact you.
  • Go to a car seat clinic.

The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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