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Child Safety Seats

Seat belts are designed to fit adults, not children! The proper use of a child safety seat has been shown to reduce the likelihood of a child being injured or killed in a crash by as much as 75%.

According to the law in Alberta, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that passengers under 16 years of age are buckled up correctly. For children under 40 lb (18 kg) or under 6 years of age, the law states the following:

  • An appropriate child safety seat must be used.
  • The child safety seat must be correctly installed in the vehicle.
  • The child must be properly secured into the seat.

Currently in Alberta, there is no law requiring the use of booster seats among children who have outgrown their forward-facing child safety seats and are over 40 lbs (18kg) or over 6 years old. The Alberta Government and Alberta Health Services recognizes booster seats as the safest choice for children under 9 years old, who have outgrown their forward-facing child safety seat, and  weigh between  40 lbs (18 kg) and  80 lbs (36 kg) or are less than 4'9'' (145 cm) tall.

Infants and children rely on their parents and caregivers to make every ride a safe ride. Using the available resources, parents and caregivers can make sure they have the right seat and are using it correctly every time. Key resources include:

  • the instructions that came with their child safety seat or booster seat
  • the instructions contained in their vehicle owner's manual
  • a series of Child Safety Seat YES Tests -  rear-facing,  forward-facing, or booster seat – that are self-check tools for choosing, installing and using a child safety seat or booster seat;
  • HEALTHLink Alberta

The Provincial Injury Prevention Program (PIPP) promotes an empowerment model that supports parents to be their own child safety seat inspectors. The role of health professionals is to coach and support parents in learning about child safety seats and booster seats.

The Alberta Occupant Restraint Program has designed Child Safety Seat Training Modules to provide information on the correct use of child safety seats, booster seats and seat belts for children to help ensure government workers, caregivers, and parents have the materials from which to make informed decisions to ensure compliance with the law and to incorporate best practices into the safe transportation of children in their care. A Certificate of Completion can be downloaded once the modules are completed successfully. 

The PIPP does NOT support an expert-centred approach, whereby parents are encouraged to seek out opportunities to have their child safety seat inspected by a certified technician, emergency responder, or insurance provider. Research shows that this approach can lead parents to believe that they are incapable of properly choosing and using a car seat for their child without expert help, and  that they do not need to regularly check their child's seat for safety after it has been inspected.

Child development factors and associated injury risks factors

  • Rear-facing, semi-reclined position supports large head, weak neck and back
  • In a crash, forces are distributed along the length of the body to protect the child's weak muscles and softer bones
Rear-facing car seat Rear-facing child safety seat appropriate for baby's weight and height must be used until he is at least 1 year old, weighs at least 22 lb (10 kg) and is walking. Parents should not rush to put their child in a forward-facing child safety seat. The rear-facing position is the safest and many child safety seats allow children to stay rear-facing to higher weight limits (35lb-40lbs/16kg-18kg).
  • Toddler is ready for forward-facing position because she is over 1 year, 22lbs (10kg) and is walking.
  • In a crash, forces are distributed along the strongest parts of the body (shoulders, hips, and torso
Forward-facing car seat A child can move to a forward-facing child safety seat when she is at least 22 lbs (10 kg), 1 year of age and is walking. Forward-facing child safety seat appropriate for toddler's weight and height must be used until she weighs at least 40 lb (18 kg) or is at least six years old. Many forward-facing child safety seats can be used to higher weight limits (65lbs/30kg).
  • When used alone, seat belts ride high on a child’s belly and neck, and can lead to serious internal injuries in a crash
  • Using a booster seat allows the seat belt to fit safely and correctly, and provides a more comfortable ride 
Booster seat Booster seat appropriate for child's weight and height is recommended if he has outgrown his forward-facing safety seat, is under 9 years old, weighs between  40 lbs (18 kg) and  80 lbs (36 kg) or is less than 4'9'' (145 cm) tall.

Key messages for clients

  • The main steps in using a child safety seat or booster seat are getting ready, securing the seat, and buckling the child in the seat. The Child Safety Seat YES Test series (rear-facing, forward-facing, booster seat) is organized according to these steps.
  • Getting ready includes important first steps like reading the instructions that came with your seat and the instructions in your vehicle owner's manual. It also includes checking that your seat is safe for use in Canada (with a Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards sticker or label) and has not been recalled.
  • Securing the seat means using a seat belt or the Universal Anchorage System (UAS) to secure rear-facing and forward-facing child safety seats to the vehicle.  All forward-facing seats must also be secured with a top tether strap. Both rear-facing and forward-facing seats are secure when the seat moves less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in any direction. 

     Rear-facing seat secured with UAS:    Rear-facing seat secured with seat belt:
     Rear-facing seat secured with UAS:  Options for securing a rear-facing child safety seat  Rear-facing seat secured with seat belt:
    Forward-facing seat secured with UAS and tether strap: Forward-facing seat secured with seat belt and tether strap:
    Forward-facing seat secured with UAS and tether strap: Options for securing a forward-facing child safety seat Forward-facing seat secured with seat belt and tether strap:

     

 

  • Buckling the child in the seat means ensuring that the child is properly seated, with a secure shoulder harness and correctly positioned chest clip for child safety seats, and with a securely buckled seat belt for booster seats. Parents and caregivers should only be able to fit one finger between their child and the harness straps.
Child seat 

  • If you need help:
  1. First, consult the instructions that came with your child safety seat and the instructions contained in your vehicle owner’s manual.
  2. Next, take the appropriate Child Safety Seat YES Test: rear-facing, forward-facing, or booster seat.
  3. The Alberta Occupant Restraint Program has designed Child Safety Seat Training Modules to provide information on the correct use of child safety seats, booster seats and seat belts for children.
  4. If you still have questions take a class. Some areas of the province have programs about correct child restraint use, including fine option programs for ticketed drivers. Go to AHS Injury Prevention Programs and Services for further information.  
  5. If you still have questions, call HEALTHLink Alberta.
  • As a parent or caregiver, you have the knowledge and skills to transport your child safely, and you have access to a wide range of educational resources. You are the child safety seat inspector! Do it right, every time.

Resources for clients

Child Safety Seat YES Tests

Rear-facing child safety seat fact sheet in different languages:

Forward-facing child safety seat fact sheet in different languages:

Alberta Occupant Restraint Program Safety Seat Information Series:

Refer parents and other caregivers to www.albertahealthservices.ca/injuryprevention.asp for injury prevention information about priority child safety issues.

Web links

  • Alberta Occupant Restraint Program focuses on improving the use of occupant restraints in order to reduce the injuries, trauma and deaths resulting from motor vehicle crashes. Site provides educational and promotional resources that health practitioners, teachers, and other professionals can use to encourage the correct use of occupant restraints among all ages.  
  • Alberta Transportation: Office of Traffic Safety focuses on traffic safety issues in Alberta - the motorist, commercial vehicles, snowmobiles, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. Site provides information and resources for health practitioners, teachers, other professionals and the public about transportation safety including child safety seats and seat belts.
  • Safe Kids Canada focuses on reducing unintentional injuries among children and youth in Canada. Site provides information for the public as well as evidence-based resources, activities and programs that health practitioners, teachers, and other professionals can use to deliver health promotion and injury prevention programs that meet the unique needs of their communities. Many resources are provided in different languages including some about child safety seats.
  • Transport Canada focuses on transportation policies and programs. Site provides information about child safety seats and seat belts as well as recalls on child safety seats.