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On The Road

Car Seat Safety Tips

Keep your kids as safe as possible with our essential car seat safety checklist.

by Alex Kelly
Adding a new family member can be an exciting time, and if you have a little one on the way, you want to make sure you are prepared to fit the newest addition into your travel plans.

Whether you’re about to hit the road with a newborn, infant, or child, it is always best to think twice about car seat safety. Have help from family and friends caring for your child? Share this article, so everyone is on the same page.

Get the right seat

Car seats aren’t a one-size-fits-most situation. Depending on your child’s age and size, they will require different seats, from a newborn seat to a child’s booster. Regardless of which child you are shopping for, the seat should have a National Safety Mark attached to it, indicating it is approved for use in Canada.

Familiarize yourself with age and stage guidelines on seat types — Ontario's Ministry of Transportation outlines regulations for rear- to forward-facing transitions, as well as the different types of seats for different child sizes.

Buy new

While it may be tempting to use a hand-me down, or search the online baby groups for a deal, car seats are something you want to purchase new. This ensures the seat is in good condition, and more importantly, you know its history.

Second hand seats carry the risk of undisclosed collisions, component degeneration, or out-of-date warranties. We know kids grow fast, and baby supplies can be pricey, but this is one area where peace of mind outweighs sticker shock.

Install correctly

While the manual that comes with the car seat may be straightforward, car seats can be puzzling, especially for first-time parents. Take the time to install the seat before baby arrives, as some seats may require additional parts (such as a Universal Tether Strap) or vehicle modifications.

As your child grows through different seats, check government guidelines to ensure the installation is secure and your child is strapped in appropriately. Still puzzled? Trained car seat technicians can help you do it right. Contact your local public health agency, fire, or police departments for a list of techs in your area.

Keep it current

All car seats sold in Canada will have an expiry date or useful life date somewhere on the product. Car seats do expire — sun exposure can weaken components, while spills can impact the safe function of straps and buckles. Additionally, instructional labels can fade, or manuals are can be lost, impacting the ability to install and maintain properly.

Once you have your car seat, regularly check for any manufacturer recall notices. Transport Canada publishes full details of all recalls, including the issue overview, company action, and tips for consumer recourse.

Do the double check

For every ride, make sure the car seat is still tight and secure, clothing isn’t preventing straps from doing their job, that the car seat is still appropriate for the age and size of the child. Running through key adjustmentsevery time means that you have the right fit for every trip.

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Minimize injury in the car

Toys, trays, and mirrors may seem like a great distraction for road trips, but any object that attaches to the car seat should be avoided — sometimes, these can have hard or sharp surfaces that can snap off in a collision, hurting your child. 

Create a ride routine

Parenting can feel like a juggling act, often times a sleep-deprived one. Unfortunately, this increases the chance of a child forgotten in a vehicle. Combined with the speed at which vehicle temperatures increase in hot weather, this is a scary scenario that may result in death.

Create a ride routine, so you always check for your child before leaving the car. Common reminders include leaving a purse or briefcase in the backseat, placing an object on the front seat when your child is in the car, or having a check-in system with your spouse to ensure no child is left behind.

Stay mindful in parking lots

Parking lots can be busy places. Choose parking spaces that are wide enough to accommodate getting your child, car seat, and stroller organized. Apply the brakes on stroller to ensure it doesn't roll into oncoming traffic, especially where parking lots aren't at a level grade. Finally, never leave the stroller with child unattended, even if you are just grabbing something from the trunk.

Stay on solid ground

Car seats don’t always stay in the car, especially if you want to bring a napping infant into the house. When using the car seat outside of the car, always place car seat on the floor, not on table or other elevated surface, as the car seat can rock off and fall. To make sure your child is safe, always stay close and keep the harness straps as snug as they would be in the car.

Travel safe and secure

If you’re taking a plane with your child, bring your car seat along. Did you know that Transport Canada recommends using your car seat on the plane? If you decide to check the seat as luggage, carefully inspect the seat on arrival for any damage.

Caught without a car seat on your travels? Research rental agencies or rideshare companies. Most will have an option to add a car seat, but do your homework ahead of time to ensure availability at your destination.

What are your family car safety tips? Tweet us @OnliaCA!

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