Do you really know if your child is safely strapped in?

A mother got caught in the middle of a debate after posting photos of her child, strapped in and being held upside down in a car seat

Originally published April 3, 2017

A mother from Maine put up a Facebook post to show how you could test whether or not you’d strapped your child correctly into his or her car seat. It was simple, fast and effective. So of course many piled in, clutching their pearls that what she was doing was bad and can’t we think of the children?

Considering how many people get part of the child car seat equation wrong, I think she did a great service. She strapped her kid in, then hefted the seat upside down to prove kiddo was securely fastened in. If anything had gone wrong, her child would have tumbled onto her; beats launching out of that seat in the event of a collision, no?

Child car seats are mandatory, and over recent years laws have extended both their design and their usage. Transport Canada has strict rules surrounding child safety seats, and following them will prevent serious injury or death if you’re involved in a crash. Children are vulnerable, and those car seats work in conjunction with the rapidly changing safety features that manufacturers are using to protect you, the adult. That airbag that could save you could kill a little one; doing any kind of workaround on that car seat could cost you dearly.

Using a car seat correctly is a two-part equation. The seat has to be properly secured to the vehicle, and your kid has to be properly secured to the seat. In her post, that mom from Maine showed exactly how important it is to have those straps correctly placed and tightened down.

Every time people are told not to put their child in a car seat wearing a bulky winter jacket, the hooting starts that we’re being unreasonable and don’t we know anything about Canadian winters? Sure we do. But anything that creates play in the straps creates danger. Don’t use bunting bags on infants, puffy jackets and any cushioning that isn’t part of the seat when you bought it.

I’m guessing some of this comes from the same people who are driving wearing huge chunky winter boots, then telling the officer the car just accelerated all by itself.

Car seat usage is based on the age, height and weight of your child. Until they meet requirements that will allow the vehicle’s safety features – seatbelts and airbags – to operate correctly, you have to protect your child. Transport Canada’s website is a trove of information and tips for parents, including:

  • When purchasing a car, take the seat or seats you will be using with you. Measure; not even all minivans will fit three seats, especially in a row, depending on the size of your family.
  • Don’t cross-border shop for deals. Canada has different, and stricter, laws surrounding child seat use. Make sure you register your purchase to be kept abreast of recalls and updates on the seat. Acceptable Canadian products are stamped with a certification.
  • If the car a seat is installed in is involved in a collision, even if the kid isn’t present at the time, ditch the seat. Much like a helmet, one hit and it’s done. You can’t see how it’s been compromised by absorbing the hit, but it might have been. Make it part of your insurance claim to replace it.
  • Child seats have an expiry date. The plastic deteriorates over time due to ultra violet rays. Straps and buckles can get weakened or compromised with spilled food or cleaners. Also note, “if you own any car seat or booster seat made before January 1, 2012, under Health Canada’s Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, you may not be able to advertise, sell or give it away because it may not meet the latest requirements set out by Health Canada.”
  • If you are disposing of a seat, don’t make it tempting to garbage pickers; cut the straps.
  • Every province provides clinics from a variety of contributors that will install your child car seats for you, or make sure that you’ve done it correctly. I’ve attended several and installers note that there is an overwhelming majority of parents who have done it wrong. Car manufacturers are making it easier to get it right, but go to Transport Canada’s site and find the name of a clinic near you – well worth the time, and it’s knowledge you can pass on.
  • If your child spends time in someone else’s car – a care provider, or grandparents – make sure they are properly secured. Don’t play “just this once” and leave your child unsecured, and don’t use outdated or dangerous seats.

That viral post demonstrated the importance of securing your child snugly into the seat. The seat itself should have not more than a couple of centimetres of give in any direction when it is tethered to the vehicle. Check the straps often – both sets – and maintain the snug fit.

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One response to Do you really know if your child is safely strapped in?

  1. Pat says:

    When I think of the cars we had as a child, with steel dashboards, no seat belts, no air bags, and armor plate glass in the windows. It’s a wonder we survived.
    Having crashed in race cars with full cages, helmets, 6 point harnesses and other safety devices like full fire systems, makes you realize how far production vehicles have progressed.
    It’s amazing what you can avoid and survive in a modern car.

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