What about the car seat

What about the car seat?

As seen in Capital Parent Magazine

by Annie Pisanu, Ottawa Public Health Nurse

NOTE: FOR MORE DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT ALL THE CAR SEAT "STAGES," CONSULT YOUR CAR SEAT USER GUIDE AND YOUR CAR'S OWNER MANUAL.

So you're expecting a baby, what an exciting time! Soon you will be picking names, decorating the baby's nursery and buying baby stuff. What about the car seat? This will be one of the most important items you will need for your child.

According to Parachute Canada, motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in Canadian children. Transport Canada states that every year about 10,000 children (from infants to 12-year-olds) are hurt or killed on the roads. However, you can reduce the risk of injury or death significantly, by as much as 75 per cent by:

Placing your child in a properly installed child car seat

Using a child car seat that is appropriate for your child's stage of development

There are three stages of children's car seats: 

Stage 1, rear-facing car seats

The law in Ontario states that your baby needs to be in a rear-facing car seat from birth to at least 9 kilograms (20 pounds). However, safety recommendations suggest keeping your child in a rear-facing child car seat for as long as possible. Some rear-facing child car seats are made for children that weigh up to 20 kilograms (45 pounds). Don't worry about your child's legs touching the back of your vehicle's seat as long as your child is still below the weight and height limits of the child car seat.

How to install your rear-facing car seat: Make sure the back of your rear-facing child car seat is at a 45-degree angle. The child car seat should not move more than 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) from side to side. 

Make sure the shoulder harness straps are positioned at or slightly below your baby's shoulders. Only one finger should fit between the harness strap and your child's collarbone. The chest clip should be at armpit level.

Stage 2, forward-facing car seats

The law in Ontario states that your child needs a forward-facing car seat from 9 kilograms (20 pounds) up until 18 kilograms (40 pounds). However, safety recommendations suggest keeping your child in a forward-facing child car seat for as long as possible. Some forward-facing car seats are made for children weighing up to 30 kilograms (65 pounds).

How to install your forward-facing car seat: Remember all forward-facing car seats must have the tether strap connected. The child car seat should not move more than 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) from side to side. 

Make sure the shoulder harness straps are positioned at or slightly above the child's shoulders. Remember only one finger should fit between the harness strap and your child's collarbone. The chest clip should also be at armpit level.

Stage 3, booster seats

The law in Ontario states that your child needs a booster seat for kids who weigh over 18 kilograms (40 pounds) until one of the following occurs:

  • The child reaches 8 years of age or
  • 36 kilograms (80 pounds) or
  • 145 centimetres (4 feet 9 inches) tall

However, safety recommendations suggest if your child has reached one of the above three criteria, they may not be entirely ready for a seatbelt. The shoulder belt needs to rest on your child's shoulder and not on their neck or arm. The lap belt also needs to be snug and resting on their hips. 

Remember, think A1Secure for every car ride;

  • Armpit level for harness chest clip. 
  • 1 finger space only between harness straps and the child's chest.
  • Secure car seat to vehicle according to the car seat's user guide.

Here are some other helpful tips:

  • Bulky snowsuits and other winter clothing can affect the tightening of your child car seat's harness. 
  • Do not leave loose items in your vehicle because they may hit and hurt someone during a sudden stop or crash.
  • Items that did not come with your child car seat may not be safe to use. 
  • Register your child car seat with the manufacturer; if your child car seat is recalled, you will be notified.
  • Replace your child car seat, if it was in a car during a crash, if it is expired or if it is torn or damaged.

In Ottawa, failure to properly secure a child in a child car seat is a $240.00 fine and 2 demerit points.

Good luck on the wonderful journey you are about to embark upon with your baby through the various child car seat stages. If you need more help with the installation of your child's car seat you can have it inspected by a certified technician at S.E.A.T.S. for Kids Canada (www.seatsforkidscanada.com) or at Ottawa's Safety Council's Best Fit Program. You can also visit www.a1secure.ca for multilingual pamphlets and installation videos in various languages.

If you need more information you can call the Ottawa Public Health information line at 613-580-6744.

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