You've passed another childhood milestone and your preschooler has outgrown her car seat â€“ hooray! But what comes next? If you think it's safe to put your child straight into a car seat belt, think again. Every year, 10,000 Canadian children are injured or killed in car accidents, but the proper use of child restraints can reduce the chance of injury or death by seventy-five percent. So get the scoop on booster seats, and make sure your child arrives safely.
The safest spot in the car for anyone under 12 years of age is always the back seat, which is where booster seats (and all other child restraint systems) should be correctly installed. Booster seats are designed for kids 40 - 60 pounds, or about age four to age nine. The function of a booster seat is to position a child so that the vehicle seat belt can be used safely.
Like all children's gear, there is a wide range of booster seats available. The two main types are the high-backed booster and the backless booster. High-backed seats help protect against whiplash -- so if your car has no headrests or low seat backs, this may be the booster for you. A backless booster can work if your vehicle has good head support. Of course, the colour, style, and accessories (cup holders, storage pockets, etc.) are up to you!
Whether you're buying new or used, Transport Canada recommends confirming your booster seat (or any car seat) meets the following criteria:
â€¢ Comes with instructions and all necessary hardware
â€¢ Has not been in a collision, shows no signs of distress (marks, cracks or tears)
â€¢ Has a CMVSS sticker
â€¢ Not been recalled (check with the manufacturer or Transport Canada)
â€¢ Not expired or is not older than 10 years if no expiry date is given
If you're not sure what type of restraint is most appropriate for your little one, here's how to determine if your child is big enough to wear a seat belt:
Check your child's seated height
While she is sitting straight up, measure the distance from your child's tailbone to the top of her head. If the measurement is at least 63 cm (25 in), she might be ready to wear a seat belt.
Check the way the belt fits your child:
â€¢ Shoulder belt should go over the shoulder and across the middle of the chest. It shouldn't be touching your child's neck.
â€¢ Lap belt should fit low over the hip-bones, under the tummy.
â€¢ Knees should bend comfortably over the edge of the seat.
According to the Canada Safety Council, FOUR out of every FIVE car seats are incorrectly installed. About 80% of us are driving our kids around in improperly installed - and therefore dangerous - car seats. So take action! Contact your local public health unit or police division to get more information on when free car seat inspection clinics are happening in your area. Buckle up, and drive safely.