Summer Safety Part 4: The Importance of Car Seat Safety

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When it comes to keeping a child safe in a motor vehicle, choosing the right car seat and using it correctly is critical. In an accident, an improperly secured child is at risk of sustaining a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury which can result in life-long consequences. In some circumstances, a child car seat can be the difference between life and death.

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Canadian Car Seat Standards and Regulations

When purchasing a car seat, it is always best to buy new. Saving money by purchasing used baby equipment is generally a good idea but when it comes to something as important as car safety, it's better to be safe than sorry. In Canada, all car seats must have a National Safety Mark label indicating that it is compliant with national standards and regulations and may legally be used in Canada. Child seats purchased in the United States or abroad cannot be used in Canada. Canadian car seats also come with an expiration date that is printed on the seat's exterior or label. Unless otherwise indicated, a car seat in Canada is considered usable for six years following the date of manufacture. Some of the reasons for expiration dates include:
  • Technological advances- A lot can change over the span of six years and car seat manufacturers want to ensure that children are benefitting from the latest, greatest, and safest technology. Developments such as Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children (LATCH) are an example of a recent development, as is the use of anti-rebound bars in rear-facing seats.
  • Wear and tear- Children are notoriously rough on their gear and car seats are no exception. Even if it's imperceptible to the eye, the plastic and fabric components of a child seat are prone to break down. Changes in temperature and frequent use also contribute to this problem.
  • Safety recalls- Even the best-designed seats can be subject to a recall. From minor issues such as fabric complaints to major safety concerns, keeping up to date with important information is critical.

Choosing The Right Seat For Your Child

While it is possible to use one car seat from birth until late toddlerhood, caregivers have options when it comes to car seat models. For newborns and infants, Ontario's Highway Traffic Act requires that the baby remain rear-facing until they weight at least 9 kg. Industry experts recommend keeping a child rear-facing as long as possible but once they have achieved the minimum weight limit, they may be switched to a front-facing seat. The Highway Traffic Act requires children weighing between 9 kg and 18 kg to use a forward-facing car seat (or rear-facing, if possible) until they reach the seat manufacturer's weight and height limits. Once they have outgrown a front-facing seat, children under the age of 8 who weight under 36 kg and measure less than 145 cm must use a booster seat.
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