It is natural for parents and guardians of infants, toddlers, and school-aged children to prioritize their child’s safety over their own. When driving in a car with small children, many parents find themselves operating their vehicle with an abundance of caution. However, even the most careful driver is at risk of being involved in a collision with a negligent driver. When sudden and shocking accidents occur, properly ensuring the safety of young passengers may help parents prevent unspeakable tragedies.
Properly securing children into appropriately sized safety restraints is not just common sense; it is the law. Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act requires that, when traveling by car, all children under the age of 8, or weighing less than 80 pounds, or measuring under 145 centimetres (4 feet, 9 inches) must be secured in a car seat or booster seat appropriately designed for their age and weight.
In spite of the law requiring parents and guardians to properly ensure their children’s safety when traveling by car, motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for Canadian children.
Accidents can happen to even the most cautious, safety-minded drivers. In the event of a collision while a child is in the vehicle, properly used car seats and booster seats can substantially reduce the risk of hospitalizations and fatalities. It is imperative that parents thoroughly research the appropriate size and model of safety restraints before making a purchase, upgrade the size of their child’s car seat as they develop, and follow each manufacturer’s installation instructions. Doing so could reduce the risk of serious, potentially permanent injuries.
If your child has been injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, an Ontario car accident lawyer may be able to help you in your pursuit of accountability and justice. Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers for a free, initial consultation about your case today.
Choosing the Right Car Seat for Your Child
According to the Canadian Public Health Association, the majority of children injured in Canadian car accidents were not secured into an appropriately sized car seat during the collision. The parents or guardians of 92% of infants, 74% of toddlers, and 96% of school-aged children injured in motor vehicle collisions did not ensure that their child’s safety restraint was adequate for their age and weight.
When it comes to children’s safety restraints, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Children grow up quickly, and their safety needs change as they mature. In the first eight years of a child’s life, they will require at least four different types of safety restraints. These include:
- Rear-facing car seats: Newborns and infants must be secured in rear-facing car seats. These safety restraints can protect the baby’s head, neck, and spine in the event of a crash or sudden stop. The Ontario Highway Traffic Act requires parents to use rear-facing car seats for infants under 9 kg (20 lb). Babies may quickly outgrow their initial car seat. That is why it is important to pay close attention to the weight and height recommended by the car seat’s manufacturer and, if necessary, upgrade to a new rear-facing car seat to accommodate your child’s growth. Some rear-facing car seats can safely accommodate children weighing up to 20 kg (45 lb). As long as your child fits the manufacturer’s weight and height limits, depending on the model, they may be able to use the same rear-facing car seat for several years.
- Forward-facing car seats: Once children have reached the age of 2 and weigh between 9 and 18 kg (20 to 40 lb), parents should upgrade to a forward-facing car seat. Forward-facing car seats use a tether strap to hold the seat firmly in place in the event of a collision, and a five-point harness to allow the toddler to sit comfortably without accidentally unbuckling themselves or moving out of the safe position.
- Booster seats: Booster seats raise a child to a higher position in the vehicle so that they can benefit from the design of an adult seat belt. Booster seats provide children with 3.5 times more protection against serious injuries. Children under the age of 8 who stand under 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) and weigh between 18 and 36 kg (40 to 80 lb) should be seated in a booster seat when traveling by car.
- Seat belts: Drivers are legally responsible for ensuring that all passengers in their car under the age of 16 are wearing seat belts. This rule applies to school-aged children who have outgrown their booster seats. Seat belts should only be used for children who can sit up straight against the back of their seat with their legs bent comfortably over the seat’s edge, the seat belt’s shoulder strap flat across their shoulder and chest, and the lap belt crossed over their hips (not their stomachs). Children must be able to comfortably maintain this seated position for the entire duration of the car trip. Children under the age of 13 are safest in the back seat, but parents can use their discretion as to when their child may sit in the front passenger seat.
Given the fact that children under the age of 8 may require several different car seats, parents may decide to purchase used car seats. They may also accept second-hand car seats from friends or relatives to accommodate their children’s changing needs as they grow. However, parents who accept used car seats from other people should be mindful of a few important safety concerns before exposing their children to potential risks.
The plastic and metals used in the construction of a car seat wear down over time. As a result, all car seats have expiration dates. Before buckling your child into a hand-me-down car seat, make sure the expiration date has not passed.
As a general rule, most car seat manufacturers recommend replacing car seats if they were inside a vehicle during a collision, even a minor one. Before accepting a second-hand car seat from a friend or relative, it would be prudent to make sure that they have not been involved in an accident while the car seat was in their vehicle.
Furthermore, it is important to ensure that all car seats, both newly purchased ones and hand-me-downs, have been approved for use in Canada. To check that the car seat is safe for use, parents can look for the National Safety Mark on their child’s safety restraint.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Transport Canada estimates that 80% of car seats in the country are used incorrectly. Given the life and death consequences of failing to properly ensure a child’s safety inside a motor vehicle, this statistic is truly frightening.
To reduce their children’s risk of serious injuries and death, parents must read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before installing their car seat and booster seat. Failing to properly install a car seat, placing it in the wrong spot within the vehicle, incorrectly buckling in your child, or reclining the seat at the wrong angle could have devastating consequences.
Other common mistakes to avoid include:
- Failing to remove a child’s bulky clothes or snowsuits before buckling them into their car seat
- Attaching add-ons to the car seat that have not been approved by its manufacturer (e.g. head restraints, hooded sleeping bags, etc.)
- Transitioning to a forward-facing seat, booster seat, or seat belt too soon
- Positioning the car seat in the vehicle’s front seat, near its airbags
- Buckling harness straps too loosely
- And more
Check for Safety Alerts and Recalls
Before purchasing a car seat or booster seat, either from a reputable retailer or a second-hand reseller, it is important to ensure that the model is safe for use. Different models of car seats and booster seats may be subject to safety alerts, and even recalls issued by their manufacturer.
Each safety restraint you buy for your child’s protection will be one of the most important purchases you ever make. That is why it is important to do your research before deciding which model to buy, and make sure it is still considered safe for your child’s use.
Of course, researching the numerous makes and models of car seats can be tedious and take up a lot of time, which is a luxury many new parents do not have. That is why Transport Canada publishes important safety alerts and recalls for parents on the market for new child safety seats. Using their online database, parents and guardians can look up various car seat manufacturers and model numbers to see if any safety notices have been released about them, and what actions should be taken to resolve their safety issues. By no means are we endorsing any specific car seat manufacturers. Instead, we ask that you review the online database on Transport Canada’s website for more information on car seat recalls as part of your own research into the car seat that is right for your family. This article is only intended to be a general overview on car seat safety.
How Preszler Injury Lawyers May Be Able to Help after a Car Accident
If you or your children have been injured in a car accident caused by another party’s negligence, Preszler Injury Lawyers may be able to help you take legal action against the at-fault party to recover financial compensation for damages you have incurred as a result.
To discuss your case in a free, initial, no-obligation consultation, contact us today online or call Preszler Injury Lawyers at 1-800-JUSTICE.