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Children's Car Seats 

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Looking at vehicle crash statistics is never a happy experience. But it appears it’s a necessary one because people need a wakeup call. Car seats are right in the middle of these negative statistics, with some astounding numbers.

We’re going to take a look at some of the statistics compiled in Canada over the past decade. There are very similar surveys and studies done in the United States, with very similar results. And they’re not pretty!

We’ll follow the old statistics with some more current figures, to see if people have been paying attention. But first, let’s go back a few years.

A 15 years ago, car seats weren’t helping save lives

The purpose of a car seat is to protect your child from injury or death in the case of a vehicle crash. That’s why they’re referred to as child safety seats. They’re specifically designed with that purpose in mind.

But if they’re not installed properly, or used correctly on a daily basis, you may as well not have them. And that was definitely the case in 1992, when Transport Canada conducted some studies relating to car seats and children’s injuries. They found that 4 out of 10 children were not properly restrained in the vehicle.

They also found some disturbing facts regarding all three types of car seats and their misuse. Let’s look at the basic figures:

  • Infant car seats – 32% were used correctly, 46% had moderate errors, and 21% had very serious errors.
  • Toddler car seats – 16% were used correctly, 65% had moderate errors, and 19% had very serious errors.
  • Booster seats – 79% were used correctly, 16% had moderate errors, and 5% had very serious errors.

Do you see a pattern here? It seems that the older the child gets, the more the parents learned. And that’s a good thing. But what about the ones who didn’t? Most of them are now living with some horrifying memories.

But the point here is that at every stage, there was some misuse of child safety seats. And most of it was directly related to ignorance of the laws regarding car seats, together with ignorance of the instructions on their use.

An interesting result came from a survey done by Angus Reid in 1994, that had 97% of parents believing that they used child car seats correctly. If you look at the injury and death figures, obviously they believed wrong!

Did improved car seat laws and designs change the picture?

All these negative statistics created a strong movement to do whatever possible to improve the situation. Laws were passed forcing car seat manufacturers to adhere to strict standards in their child safety seat designs. And the result was much safer car seats.

However, another Transport Canada study found that, in 1997, 48 children under the age of five were killed in vehicle crashes. The puzzling factor here was that 31 of them were sitting in child safety seats. And so were the 2,529 other children under five who were injured – all sitting in car seats.

More research showed that, although parents were putting their children in car seats, either they weren’t fastened in properly, or the car seat itself wasn’t anchored properly. Folks, it’s no use having a car seat if you don’t follow the instructions very closely. After all, it’s your child’s life you’re dealing with here – isn’t it worth the time to do it properly?!

It seems many parents haven’t learned yet

Continual car seat checkups were being made across Canada, and still are today, because parents are still not getting the message. We don’t like to think what it might take for them to finally “get it”.

A series of safety seat checkups recently conducted in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia found that, out of 158 seats examined, 93% were installed incorrectly. And 1 out of 10 of those had actually been recalled by the manufacturer for defects.

More car seat checks over an 18-month period revealed that 92% of the 5,500 seats checked were dangerously misused. That’s not good enough, people!

What can you do to maximize your child’s safety in the vehicle?

Parents – Use the Car Seat Selector icon and find out all you can about your child’s car seat, your vehicle and its relation to your child’s car seat, and all instructions, procedures and laws pertaining to your child’s car seat.

Remember, this apparatus that protects your child in a crash (God forbid!) won’t work unless it’s anchored and installed properly, and your child is snugly harnessed in, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions.

Here are a few things that are important to remember as your child grows and you change your type of car seat to accommodate that growth, keeping the child safe at all times:

  • Infant car seats – Used from birth to 1 year old, with a minimum weight of about 20 pounds. A rear-facing convertible car seat may be used as long as you meet the age and weight requirements. The harness straps must be at or below the child’s shoulder.
  • Toddler car seats – Used for over 1 year old, with a weight range of 20-40 pounds. A convertible or forward-facing car seat may be used, again, if you meet the age and weight requirements. The harness straps must be at or below the child’s shoulders.
  • Booster car seats – Used for 4-8 years old, with a minimum weight of 40 pounds, and a maximum height of 4’9”. A belt-positioning booster seat is forward-facing, and must use a lap and shoulder seat belt. The lap belt must ride low across the child’s upper thighs, with the shoulder belt reaching across the chest and shoulder. Check your vehicle owner’s manual to see if you have a lock mode for the rear seat belts – that’ll keep the booster seat anchored firmly in place.

All safety agencies issue an important warning: ALL CHILDREN AGE 12 AND UNDER MUST RIDE IN AN Car Seat Selector iconAPPROVED CAR SEAT IN THE BACK SEAT OF THE CAR ONLY!

Child safety seats protect your children

We’re sure your children are valuable to you. We’re sure you want to do everything possible to protect them from harm. That’s why you use a car seat, isn’t it?

But always remember, if your child car seat isn’t installed properly, or if your child isn’t fastened in properly, and you’re in a crash, think about how you’ll feel if your child is injured, or worse. Almost all child injuries resulting from vehicle crashes could have been avoided.

If only you weren’t in such a hurry. If only you thought it didn’t matter because you were only going on a short trip. If only you’d checked the seat to see if it moved around too much, or to see if it was anchored properly. If only, if only, if only.

If only usually comes too late. Don’t be caught up with the speed of daily life. We understand that your children often give you reason to hurry. But, if you stop and think about it, they also give you reason – very good reason – to slow down. When it comes to your child’s safety, stop and think – it’s worth it, isn’t it?

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