According to AUTO21, motor vehicle crashes are the single greatest cause of injury to children in Canada and the United States. School aged children are 10 times more likely than other age groups to experience death or severe injuries in road collisions. While the 2010 Canadian National Survey on Child Restraint Use shows that parents are using child restraint systems more than ever before, there is still concern that children are not restrained properly for their age and weight range.
Children and Safety Belts
Many parents assume that their four- to nine-year-olds are safe using a seat belt, but these kids are too small for the belt to fit properly. When in an accident and not properly restrained, a child may be ejected from or thrown around within the vehicle. Research shows that only 20% of school age children correctly used child safety seats, even though a properly adjusted child safety seat reduces the risk of fatality by 71% and the risk of serious injury by 67%. A good fit is essential for providing adequate protection from injury. Seat Belts are designed to keep adults safe whereas Child Car Seats and Booster Seats are meant to keep children safe.
Car Seats are mandatory in all provinces, while booster seats are required in all Canadian provinces except five (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories).
As noted by both Insurance Company of British Columbia and Transport Canada, there are four stages to move through before your child will be safe using an adult seat belt alone.
Stage 1 (Infant) – Rear Facing
- from birth until at least one year old
- place in rear-facing in back seat, centre-rear position (NOT front)
- never carry an infant in your arms as you cannot protect them in a crash
Stage 2 (Toddler)- Forward-facing with tether
- must be over 1 year old and over 9kg (20lbs)
up to at least 18kg (40lbs)
- place in backseat and remain rear-facing if allowed by manufacturer’s weight limits
- always use a tether strap
Stage 3 – Booster Seat
- position lap belt low over hip bones and shoulder belt over shoulder and in front of chest
- protects 3.5 times better than seat belts alone
must be over 18kg(40lbs)
- required until at least 9yo or 145cm(4’9’’)
- do not use a booster seat with only a lap belt
Stage 4 (Youth)– Seat Belt
- child can start using seatbelt when he or she turns nine years old, weights 36kg (80lb), or 145cm (4’9’’) tall
- keep children in the back seat until 12 years of age
- Put the lap belt low across the hips and keep it snug.
Note: Ensure child car seat meets Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards labeled on seat (CMVSS)
Children and Airbags
The relationship between children and airbags seems complicated. So many differing reports tell wether you should turn off your airbags while children are in the vehicle. Airbags are a life-saving device within you vehicle. The key to keeping your children safe in relationship to airbags is using a proper restraint system, as discussed above. If your child is properly restrained with the appropriate device, airbags increase your child's safety while riding in a vehicle. The main danger concerning airbags and children is if an inflating airbag makes contact with an occupied rear-facing infant seat. For your child's safety, follow these tips from Transport Canada:
- Never install a rearward-facing infant restraint system in a seat equipped with an air bag.
- Children under the age of 12 should be seated in the back of the vehicle
- Make sure the infant restraint system, the child restraint system, or the booster cushion is properly suited to the child's height and weight.
- Always ensure that the restraint system is properly secured by the seat belt to the vehicle.
- Secure the child properly in the restraint system.
- Never place the shoulder strap of a seat belt behind the child's back or under the arm.