Blog: 5 Myths about Car Seats
by Bailey Levy, Health Promotion student with Child Safety Link
I used to think as long as a child was in a car seat, that they were safe. I’ve since learned that that there is more to it than that. Although having a car seat for your child is the first step – it is not the only step. I’ve been looking after children since I was 12, but I had no experience with car seats until I was 17 and started to use them in my own car. At 18, I became a full-time Nanny during the spring and summer months and I would install or uninstall a car seat almost every day. I always ensured the car seat was secure and attached to the vehicle, and I always made sure to buckle the children in; however, I was unaware of a few key points and guidelines associated with safely buckling the harness and installing the car seat. I put together this blog to help parents and caregivers who may have the same misconceptions that I did!
Before you head out on your next car ride, here are 5 myths about car seats that every parent should be aware of:
Myth #1: Car seats do not expire.
Fact: All car seats and booster seats expire. Check the date on your seat.
Up until about a year ago, I did not even realize that car seats expire! Car seats and booster seats in Canada do expire because:
- Sunlight could damage the plastic part of the seat
- Labels with important safety information may fade
- Food or drinks may spill and could prevent parts of the seat from working safely
- Safety standards change
When a seat expires, it should be disposed of. When a child outgrows a car seat, it is common for parents to pass down the seat to another child or to a friend or family member; however, once the seat has passed its useful life it should no longer be sold, given away, or donated. If you cannot find the expiry date for your seat, you can always contact the manufacturer to find out.
Make sure YOUR car seat is safe to use with this checklist: Getting started: Is your seat safe to use?
Myth #2: Expensive car seats are safer.
Fact: All car seats in Canada meet the same safety standards.
I know that I used to believe that the more expensive a safety product is, the safer it must be. I can only assume that some parents may also believe that more expensive seats are safer, but that is not the case. All car seats pass the same safety standards to be able to be sold in Canada. Always look for the Canadian National Safety Mark sticker! I now realize that the main differences between cheaper car seats and more expensive ones are things like comfort, convenience and style.
Seats with a higher price tag usually offer comfort features like softer fabric and added padding that children tend to find more comfortable. Higher end seats may also be easier to carry, come in attractive prints and colors, and come with extra accessories. That said, all seats have met the same level of safety no matter what brand you purchase because of the high safety standards in Canada. Sometimes the least expensive seats are the lightest and can fit in small cars better than others. I have learned that the best seat is the one that fits your child, your car, AND your budget.
To make sure that your child is in the appropriate seat for their age, check out this easy guide: Is your Child in the Right Seat?
Myth #3: It is safe for my child to wear bulky winter clothing or hockey gear while buckled in a car seat.
Fact: The straps or seat belt does not fit safely over bulky winter clothing. Dress your child in snug-fitting, warm layers for a safe trip to the rink.
Although I was a full-time Nanny in the summer, I still occasionally worked in the fall and winter months as well. I would often take the children in my care to winter activities or playdates and buckle them into their seat with their puffy winter gear on, without even realizing this may not be safe! Taking those few extra moments to take off the child’s winter gear in the car may sound like a hassle, but ultimately, those few moments could end up saving the child’s life.
Any type of puffy or bulky clothing, such as snow suits or hockey gear, can restrict the seat belt or harness from fitting correctly. If the harness or seatbelt is not secure, it is unable to keep your child safe in a collision. Using a car seat and booster seat correctly can reduce the risk of injury or death by up to 71%.
For more detailed info on how to make sure your child is warm AND safe in their car seat, check out this blog: https://childsafetylink.ca/baby-its-cold-outside/
Myth #4: As soon as my child turns 2 they can safely switch to forward-facing.
Fact: A child is safest riding rear-facing for as long as they fit their larger, rear-facing seat.
I remember one summer, one of the children I cared for had just turned 2. Their mom and I were outside casually talking about whether or not the child should switch to forward-facing. We both had said, well they’re 2 now so why not? We were both under the impression that as long as the child was 2 and met the height or weight limit that it would be just as safe to switch to forward-facing. By the end of the conversation the mom had decided to just go ahead and do it. Looking back, it was clear that the child would still fit within the seat’s height and weight limits for rear-facing for at least a few more months, if not longer. But we assumed that since they were 2, they would be safe to switch. But I know now that as long as they still fit in their rear-facing seat, they should stay that way for as long as they can.
Always keep your child rear-facing until they reach the height or weight stated in the manual of your specific seat. You will find this information on the labels and also in the manual. For most children, this is anywhere between the ages of 2-4 years. Rear-facing offers the best protection for a child’s developing head, neck, and spine, in a sudden stop or crash. That’s a fact!
For more info on rear-facing, check out this blog: https://childsafetylink.ca/5486-2/
Myth #5: The top tether strap is optional.
Fact: The tether strap is required on all forward-facing seats in Canada.
I remember one day, I was installing the car seat and trying to attach the top tether strap to my vehicle. I was getting frustrated because the strap would not loosen and it could not reach the anchor at its current length. I tried and tried and could not get it. I remember thinking to myself, is this really necessary? Luckily, a few more tries and I got it loosened and attached it to the anchor. But for a few split seconds I was questioning how necessary the top tether strap really was. If I would have known then what I know now, I never would have questioned it.
For a forward-facing seat, the top tether strap must always be attached to the tether anchor in your vehicle. The top tether secures the top of the car seat to the vehicle, which can prevent a head injury during a collision. Consult your vehicle’s manual to determine where the tether anchor is located. Before you leave the driveway, make sure that the tether is tight and secure. The top tether is required on all forward-facing seats with a harness in Canada.
Car seats can be frustrating and a hassle to install, but they are essential to keeping your child safe. It wasn’t until I started my internship at Child Safety Link, that I learned all the dos and don’ts of car seat safety and all the rules to follow to be able to keep a child safe in the vehicle. Thanks to Katherine, Health Promotion Specialist at Child Safety Link, I now feel more confident when installing car seats and when buckling children and I hope our readers do too.
Child Passenger Safety: Get the Facts. CDC. (2020, October 30). https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/child_passenger_safety/cps-factsheet.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fmotorvehiclesafety%2Fchild_passenger_safety%2Fcps-factsheet.html.
Child Car Seats. MyHealth.Alberta.ca Government of Alberta Personal Health Portal. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Alberta/Pages/tips-for-buying-a-child-safety-seat-or-booster-seat.aspx.
J Sshapka. (2020, October 30). Hockey gear and car seats. Vancouver Island Car Seat Technicians. https://vicarseattechs.com/2020/hockey-gear-car-seats/.
Transport Canada. (2019, October 3). Expiry dates on child car seats and booster seats. Transport Canada. https://tc.canada.ca/en/road-transportation/defects-recalls-vehicles-tires-child-car-seats/how-long-are-child-car-seats-booster-seats-safe.
Transport Canada. (2019, October 4). Stage 2: forward-facing seats. Transport Canada. https://tc.canada.ca/en/road-transportation/child-car-seat-safety/installing-child-car-seat-booster-seat/stage-2-forward-facing-seats.