Allstate Canada has partnered with Dorel Juvenile Canada, makers of Safety 1st products, to launch “Protecting Your Most Precious Cargo,” a three-part series focused on taking a proactive approach to car seat safety. In this second edition, Dave Pereira – an Allstate Agency Manager, Certified Car Seat Safety Technician and father of three – goes through some helpful tips that parents should keep in mind before installing their child’s car seat. Missed the first article? You can find it here.
According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, child car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 per cent and the risk of serious injury by 67 per cent; using a booster seat for older children (up to nine years of age), instead of just a seatbelt, can provide a 59 per cent reduction in the risk of injury, but only if the safety seats are installed and used correctly. This is important because Parachute Canada has found the misuse rates for car seats can range from 44 to 81 per cent, and 30 to 50 per cent for booster seats.
Before purchasing and installing a car seat, there are a few things you can do to make sure it is the right fit for both your car and your family. For example, you can always head to your local independent baby store and see if they are willing to let you test different seats in your car prior to purchase in order to determine which car seat is the best fit for your vehicle.
Online reviews can also help with the decision-making process. However, you’ll need to keep in mind that the people commenting aren’t always experts on the subject of car seat safety. If a car seat’s reviews are mostly positive, that’s good, but make sure you vet the negative reviews before forming your own opinions and verify that there haven’t been any recalls.
A recall check can be as simple as performing a Google search or checking Transport Canada’s recalls database. After purchasing a new car seat, you can also register it with the manufacturer. By doing so, the manufacturer will be able to alert you to product recalls, helping you keep abreast of news related to your seat.
When it comes to actually installing your child’s car seat, you should always consult both the car seat’s original instruction manual and your vehicle’s ownership manual. It is possible that the two manuals will have conflicting information regarding installation, or that a seat will not fit properly in your vehicle model. In those scenarios, it is recommended that a parent consult a certified car seat technician or visit a car seat service provider like Kiddie Proofers. You can also sign up for a local car seat clinic for tips and advice.
If you are trying to determine whether or not a car seat is properly installed, you should consider some of the following pointers from Transport Canada:
- Car seats should always be installed in the back seat of a vehicle, or in the middle row if it’s a three-row van, far away from front seat air bags.
- Make sure the car seat is securely installed and doesn’t move more than 2.5 cm (1 inch) at the seat belt path.
- A car seat’s harness should be snug against a child’s body every time they are in their seat. The chest clip should be at the child’s armpit level — this is one of the most common use errors.
- Check your car seat’s instruction manual to confirm how much space should be between the top of your child’s head and the top of the car seat — remember, every seat will be different
Mimi Brandspigel, Senior Product Manager of Car Seats at Safety 1st, reminds parents that car seats are more than just another piece of baby gear; instead, they are “sophisticated safety devices. All children are shaped differently, and all vehicle seats are different which just makes installation tricky!”
When it comes to common car seat errors, Brandspigel encourages parents to keep the following solutions in mind:
- Install a car seat with the vehicle’s seat belt or the Universal Anchorage System — not both.
- When tightening the seat belt or the Universal Anchorage System, try putting your knee in the seat to get a tight install — the extra weight helps!
- Make sure the chest clip is at the child’s armpit level and the harness is snug.
- The safest car seat is the one you can install and use correctly every time, and that fits your child.
Finally, make sure all friends, family and caregivers (nannies, babysitters, etc.) who may provide care for your child know how to use your child’s seat, including how to properly install and remove it. Just like you, they’ll potentially need to reinstall the seat, step-by-step, every time it is removed from the car or being switched from one seat or bench to another. With more friends and family in the know, you’ll feel better that a car seat is doing its job every time your precious cargo is on the road.