When driving with young kids, knowing how to use car restraints properly is of paramount importance.
Transport Canada’s 2010 Canadian National Survey on Child Restraint Use reveals that parents are diligent about using car seats. Researchers found 95.8 per cent of child passengers in the study were restrained.
However, the national rate of correct use of child restraints was only about 64 per cent. In B.C., it was a bit higher at just over 68 per cent, but still way below the Road Safety 2010 target of 95 per cent.
When used appropriately, child restraints can reduce the risk of death and serious injury by about 70 per cent. Unfortunately, many children die or are injured in motor vehicle accidents every year because they weren’t properly restrained.
“The bulk of our focus is on that approximately five per cent that aren’t using the child seat at all,” said Marg Deibert, senior child safety seat educator with BCAA’s Road Traffic Safety Foundation.
This includes parents who restrain their kids with seatbelts alone instead of booster seats.
According to Transport Canada rules, children between four and nine years old need to use booster seats, unless they exceed a height of 145 cm and weigh more than 18 kg. Children are at a greater risk of sustaining injuries, specifically abdominal injuries, when using seatbelts alone compared to using a booster seat.
“(Without a booster seat, children’s) knees don’t bend naturally at the front of the vehicle’s seat, so they slouch and they slide forward,” she explained. When the child slides forward, the lap belt pushes against the child’s soft abdominal area. The shoulder belt also rubs uncomfortably against the neck, so kids tend to put their seatbelt under the arm or behind the back. “And that becomes a very dangerous situation.”
Deibert says it’s easy to ensure children are properly secured in safety seats.
“When they’re in a child seat, the harness for rear-facing should be as close to the shoulder or below. If it’s forward facing, the harness needs to be above the shoulders. For tightening, it’s all the same. You want it snug so you can slide two fingers comfortably underneath.”
When installing child seats to the vehicle, it’s important to apply body weight to get a proper fit.
“If they just tighten the seat up without applying the body weight, when a child goes to sit down on the child seat, it pushes down and then the seatbelt is loose.”
Using child seats may seem like more work than necessary, but an accident can happen in an instant. As the adage goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
For more information, visit www.childseatinfo.ca.
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