Infant and Child Restraints

car seat twoAbout six years ago I was at a Road Safety conference listening to a Collision Analyst from the Burnaby RCMP. He was talking about the importance of properly installed child restraints, and he mentioned a number of collisions he’d attended over the years, and the many tragic ends he’d witnessed. The story that really stayed with me though, was the one about the mother and 4 year old child who’d been rear ended. The force of the impact violently flung the child seat forward, and the little girl, strapped in the seat, was flung forward as well, and ultimately held in place by the strength of the child seat harness. The mother and daughter were not injured in the crash. On the screen the Collision Analyst showed photos of the child seat and the harness straps. He pointed out the stress marks on the harness straps, the seatbelt webbing, and on the frame of the seat. I’ll never forget the Corporal’s words. “I was so happy to see where those stress marks were, they were in exactly the right place for that type of collision, proving the restraint system was installed correctly. I was so happy to see that mother cared enough to take the time to make sure her child’s seat, and her child, were strapped in the car properly.”
The most important thing you can do for your child’s safety in a vehicle is to ensure he or she is buckled into a properly fitting child seat that is correctly installed in the vehicle.” Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death among children ages 1 to 19. Children ages 2 to 5 who use safety belts prematurely are four times more likely to suffer a serious head injury in a crash than those in child safety seats or booster seats.”
Hands up if you think installing infant and child seats is complicated and somewhat stressful. I sure do! Every time I install Lucan’s convertible infant seat into an automobile I go into hyper anal mother mode – triple checking the tightness of the straps attaching the seat to the vehicle, and yanking the tether strap as tight as possible (about 5 times). Here’s a little tip to make sure your child’s seat is as tight as possible on the vehicle seat – once you’ve got the seatbelt webbing pulled through and buckled in, or, if using the latch system, the child seat attachments hooked into the vehicle attachments, then place your full weight onto the child seat and push down while at the same time pulling the seatbelt or latch webbing as tight as possible. The more slack you remove from the seatbelt or webbing, the tighter the child seat is attached to the vehicle seat, and the more likely that child seat will stay in place in a collision.  I’ve attached a link to a handy how to guide here:

When you are putting your child into the seat make sure you remove bulky clothing and that the harness strap is fitting snuggly on your child’s body – there should be very little slack in the harness strap.
All child seats should be installed in the back seat, preferably in the middle, as this is the safest place; the middle of the back seat is farthest from the point of impact, regardless of the type of collision. If your child is less than one year old the child seat must be rear facing. There is a very, very good reason for the rear facing rule. When babies are born their skeletal structure (bones) are very soft. Think about your own rib cage, pretty strong and solid, a good support for all your internal organs like heart, stomach and lungs. If you are bucked into your vehicle seat and involved in a collision, your rib cage will be able to protect and contain your internal organs. Now, think about the baby. With soft bones, a baby’s ribs are not able to protect and contain internal organs if thrown around. So infants need to be rear facing in a vehicle so that if there is a collision their spinal column, supported by the back of the seat, not their rib cage, would absorb most of the impact. In fact, best practice is to keep your child rear facing as long as possible; rear facing is the safest way for children to be seated in a vehicle.
The proper fit of a child seat is crucial for safety. I mean, you would not put your child into shoes too big, so why would you place your child into too large of a child seat? And yet, some parents do. More than once I’ve heard comments like, “I can’t wait for my kid to move into a booster, so I’m moving her up even though she’s not yet 40 pounds, she’s only a couple pounds under”. Or “My kid hates the booster seat, so he doesn’t use it”. Comments like this make my blood run cold…. Sizing of children in infant and child restraints are not arbitrary decisions. This was not a conversation that happened over coffee. The sizing of children in child restraints is based upon evidence from fatal and catastrophic injury car crashes, and lots of tests with crash test dummies. The level of safety tests that child seats undergo, especially in Canada, is intense and for good reason; they carry precious cargo. So please, don’t rush your kids through the car seat phases. Do not move your child out of the convertible seat until he or she has reached the maximum weight range, some seats have a higher than 40 pounds maximum weight. My son Lucan is quite tall but thin, he is still under 40 pounds, sometimes 38.5, sometimes 39. For the past year I’ve been waiting to buy a booster seat but, my kid’s not there yet, so, we’ll keep waiting.
And why, you ask, is there a need for booster seats? Well, vehicle seats and the seat belt restraint system is designed for a person about 5’9” and 160 pounds. There is no way, if children are using only a vehicle seatbelt, that they will not be killed or seriously injured in a car crash; the seat belt restraint system will not work properly as a child’s body is too small. Without a booster seat the belt path on a child will run across his or her face and along their abdomen, a very soft and vulnerable place; in a collision the child will suffer severe injuries.  With a booster seat, the belt path will correctly be positioned diagonally across the child’s chest and torso and across the pelvic area – which has hard bones to protect the child’s insides.  Besides, children who are boosted up can see out of the window so will enjoy the car trip much more.

Please, ensure you’ve put your child in a properly fitted seat.

There is a lot of great information on the ICBC website:

“When used properly, child safety seats significantly reduce fatalities and serious injuries in a crash.”
Children outgrow everything—even car seats! Ensure you’re using the right seat for your child’s age and size.
It’s also the law: in B.C., all children under 16 years old must be properly restrained in an appropriate child car seat or seat belt.
When you’re purchasing or using a seat, make sure it meets Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, it hasn’t expired and it’s Canadian. If you’re buying a seat outside of Canada, including online from non-Canadian vendors, it doesn’t comply with Canada’s safety regulations.
For your child seat to be effective, it must be installed properly. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.”
Need help or tips?
Visit Transport Canada for instructions with diagrams.  Key information is also available in Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Punjabi, Somali, and Spanish.   Or call the experts at our Child Passenger Safety Program Information Line: 1-877-247-5551.

Yet another helpful article is linked here:

Whatever your mode of travel: on foot, bike, public transit or in a personal automobile, remember, safety first!

Happy trails.

Written by Karon Trenaman