The car seat dilemma

by Julie Graham

Everything you need to know about buying and installing your child’s car seat

car-seat-w2014Purchasing your child’s car seat for the first time can be very daunting. There is so much information on child passenger safety available to parents today, it can be confusing and frustrating. You’re likely wondering: what is the safest car seat on the market?

How do you know if your car seat is installed properly, and where can parents get help?

First, parents are encouraged to do some research. Barb Baines, Canadian Safety Advocate for Britax, says, “The safest car seat is the one that fits your vehicle, fits your child; (the one) you can use correctly each and every time and the one that you can afford.”

According to the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada, parents should always refer to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual when installing a car seat.

One of the most common errors noticed by certified technicians at car seat clinics is that the harness straps are too loose and the chest clip is too low.

The harness straps should be tight enough so that the parent is unable to pinch the harness webbing horizontally once tightened. The chest clip should be located at armpit level – right across the chest plate.

In addition to harness issues, technicians notice on many occasions that car seats are not secured tightly to the back seat of the vehicle. The vehicle seat belt and/or the Universal Anchorage System is usually too loose.

Locking clips, lock-offs and other similar devices that can be found on your car seat must be used appropriately in order to have less than 2.5 cm (one inch) of movement side-to-side and front-to-back to ensure the car seat is secure in your vehicle.

Sometimes parents arrive at a clinic using the wrong seat for the weight, age and development of their child.

Parents should not be in a rush to put their children in the forward-facing position too quickly. According to CPSAC, keeping children rear facing through the second year of life is five times safer.

If all this information is overwhelming, parents, don’t despair. There are several organizations to offer support should you have any car seat questions or concerns.

S.E.A.T.S for Kids is a non-profit organization in the Ottawa-Kingston region, dedicated to increasing the correct use of child restraint systems in our community. They offer a wide variety of services, including car seat inspection clinics, certification courses, information sessions, seminars and appearances at community events.

And the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada offers a national training program dedicated to the safety of children and youths travelling in motor vehicles. CPSAC is dedicated to giving all Canadian caregivers and professionals the tools and information to help reduce the risk of injury in the event of a collision.

Car seats, when properly installed, save lives.