Car Seat Safety


Did you know that according to the Ministry of Transportation car collisions are the number one cause of preventable injuries leading to death in children? Although a car seat cannot help you avoid a collision, it can significantly reduce the severity of your child’s injuries when used properly.

I often talk to friends, family and clients about the important of car seats and booster seats. In Canada there are minimum requirements for the use of car seats which include age, weight and height. I underlined minimum because I have found that some people are quick to move their children from (for example) rear-facing to forward-facing as soon as they meet the minimum requirements. However, studies have found that you should extend your child’s position in the car seat until your child has reached the maximum height and weight allowable by the manufacturer. Even better would be to purchase a car seat that has a higher height and weight range.

But the question is why? We all know that putting a toddler in a rear-facing car seat can be a hassle. Isn’t it easier then to just use a booster and a seat belt as soon as they reach 40 pounds? And who wants to take their child’s winter coat off when it’s -30 degrees out?

While researching answers to all of these questions, I came across a great website called . Although the author of the blogs found on this website is an American author, she provides information on various other countries listing the highest safety standards out there. Unfortunately, in my opinion at least, Canada is not the leader in car seat safety standards.

Rear-facing vs. Forward-facing

In Ontario the Highway Traffic Act requires a child to stay rear-facing at least until the child reaches 20lbs. This is the minimum, not the maximum. The maximum height is (almost) always that the top of the child’s head must be one inch below the top of the car seat whereas the maximum weight will depend on the type and model of the car seat. The car seat lady has a great blog describing what a collision impact does to tiny humans. Especially tiny humans that are in a forward-facing car seat. ( Of greatest concern is the impact on the spine and brain. It is said that rear-facing is 5 times safer than forward-facing.

5 point-harness vs. seatbelt

The Ontario standards are that a child should remain in a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness until they reach a minimum of 40lbs. The car seat lady recommends looking for the following when determining if a child is ready to move from a car seat to a booster seat:

  • Is the car equipped with a shoulder and lap belt?
  • Is the child at least 40lbs?
  • Is the child at least 4 years old?
  • Will your child sit properly (back to seat, knees bent comfortably over the seat) for the entire car ride (no slouching, no bending, no unclipping, no reaching)

A 5-point harness provides a larger distribution of the force of the impact. It has 5 points of contact. When positioned properly a booster seat with the car seat belt can be appropriate. Some studies suggest that a child will not be mature enough until age 5-7 to stay properly seated. The key is that the seat belt has to be properly positioned at the time of the collision, not just when you initially strap in the child. If the lap belt is too close or on the child’s belly or if the shoulder belt is too close or on the child’s neck (even worse if it’s both) a collision could cause severe and fatal injuries.

The Snowsuit Effect

The rule of thumb is: you should not be able to pinch the straps of the car seat when you remove your child’s winter coat and re-clip them without the coat on and without adjusting it further. What happens if you don’t? The car seat lady described it as follows: “Crash forces are extreme; they crumple the steel frame of the car. In a crash, not only the steel is compressed, so too are the clothes your child wears and the extra fluff you have may have put in the car seat. Fluff can fool you, as it will make the straps seem snug, often super-snug, on your child, but in the instant of a crash when the fluff gets compressed, the straps will be loose, often super-loose, leaving your child at risk in the instant it most matters. Fluff is not your friend when it stands between you and a harness that your life depends on.” She also provides a lot more information on the effects of a crash on a child’s body here:


Although it can be down right frustrating to deal with the many woes of putting a toddler in a car seat, playing the waiting game could save this child’s life. In Canada over 2000 children (between 1-4 years old) are injured or killed in car crashes. You might think, it won’t happen to me, I drive safely, but what about all of the other drivers out there that could cause the crash? Remember that in Ontario the driver is responsible to ensure that all passengers under the age of 16 are wearing a seat belt or seated in an appropriate car seat.

If you or anyone you know has been injured in a car crash contact Burn Tucker Lachaîne today for a free consultation.

By Dani Grandmaitre of Burn Tucker Lachaîne Personal Injury Lawyers on December 15, 2017
Tags: Car Accidents, Head Injury, Personal Injury, Safety, Serious Injury