Child Car Seats

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Child Car Seats

Topic Overview

Infant and child car seats save lives. By law, children must be buckled up in a car seat that is made for their weight, height, and age. Check your provincial laws for more information.

A child who is not in a car seat can be seriously injured or killed during a crash or an abrupt stop, even at low speeds. A parent's arms are not strong enough to hold and protect a baby during a car crash. Many unrestrained children die because they are torn from an adult's arms during a crash.

Set a good example for your children by always wearing your own seat belt, and always insist that they buckle up.

Requirements for car seats

Buy a car seat appropriate for your child's current weight, height, and age:1

  • Use an infant car seat that reclines and faces the rear for your baby. It is safest for your baby to remain in a rear-facing infant seat until he or she reaches the maximum weight or height allowed by the car seat's manufacturer. See a picture of a rear-facing car seat.
  • Use a toddler seat that faces the front and has a shield or harness. Use a toddler seat when your child outgrows the maximum weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of the rear-facing infant seat. Keep using a toddler seat until your child no longer fits in it. Some infant seats can be converted into toddler seats. See a picture of a front-facing car seat.
  • Use a booster seat with a regular lap and shoulder belt for children who have outgrown their front-facing car seats. Booster seats raise the child up so that the lap and shoulder seat belts fit properly. Adjust the shoulder belt to fit across the shoulder, not the neck. Use this type of seat until adult seat belts fit your child correctly. See a picture of a booster seat.

Don't buy a used car seat. If a car seat has been recalled or has been in an accident or misused, it may not fully protect your baby.

Proper positioning

The safest position for your baby or child is in the back, middle seat of the car.

  • Do not place your child's car seat in the front seat of any vehicle with a passenger side air bag that cannot be turned off.
  • Do not allow a child younger than age 13 to sit in the front seat of any vehicle.
  • Make sure a rear-facing seat is at an angle where your infant's head does not flop forward.
  • Take extra care if you have a premature infant. Slouching may affect his or her breathing and oxygen supply.

For maximum safety, follow the manufacturer's recommendations for car seat use, which should include weight guidelines, installation procedures, and how to position and secure your child. Cars manufactured since September 2002 are equipped with a standardized car safety seat attachment system. This feature allows parents to secure the car seat onto a permanently installed hook.

Certified child passenger safety technicians can help you install your car seat and position your child safely. To see if one is in your area, contact your local police office.

Do not let your child get out of his or her seat while the car is moving. If your child needs attention, stop the car, take the child out of the seat, take care of his or her needs, and put him or her back into the seat before the car starts moving again. If your child is fussy again soon after, stop and check your child again.

References

Citations

  1. Transportation Canada (2011). Keep kids safe. Available online: http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/roadsafety/safedrivers-childsafety-car-time-stages-1083.htm.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last Revised August 10, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.