Becoming a parent for the first time can be overwhelming. Parents-to-be who are anxiously and joyfully awaiting the arrival of their first child often find themselves overloaded with information about how to properly ensure their child’s safety and comfort in every situation. Shopping for the right crib, the right stroller, the right diaper bag, and other essential supplies can be a hectic and expensive process. 

When it comes to purchases related to their child’s safety, however, special attention must be paid. Purchasing an important safety restraint like a car seat requires research, and numerous factors need to be taken into consideration. When traveling by car with their child, parents usually practice an abundance of caution behind the wheel. However, accidents can happen to even the most attentive drivers. Ensuring that they have selected the right safety restraint for their newborn can help parents reduce the risk of unthinkable tragedies in the event of a collision.

Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for Canadian children. Parents who use car seats and booster seats purchased in accordance with their child’s age, height, and weight can substantially reduce the risk of tragic fatalities and serious injuries requiring hospitalization. According to the Canadian Public Health Association, 92% of infants, 74% of toddlers, and 96% of school-aged children who have been injured in Canadian motor vehicle collisions were not secured into an appropriately sized car seat or booster seat during the accident. 

The province of Nova Scotia is a partner of Child Safety Link. According to the organization’s car seat specialists, using the right car seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions can reduce the risk of children’s serious injuries and fatalities by 70%.

If your child has been injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, a Nova Scotia car accident lawyer may be able to help you in your pursuit of accountability and justice. 

No one is immune to accidents caused by negligent drivers. Operating a motor vehicle means putting yourself and any passengers– including your children– at risk. In order to reduce the risk of your child sustaining serious, potentially permanent injuries in the event of a car accident, parents must thoroughly research the appropriate size and model of safety restraints before making a purchase, upgrade the size of their child’s car seat as they develop, and follow each manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Parents can expect to upgrade their child’s safety restraint a number of times throughout their childhoods. Children grow up quickly, and their safety needs change as they develop. In the first nine years of a child’s life, parents can expect to progress through at least three different phases of safety restraints. These include:

  • Rear-facing car seats
  • Forward-facing car seats 
  • Booster seats

Since children under the age of 9 may require several different safety restraints to accommodate their changing needs as they grow, parents may decide to purchase used car seats or accept hand-me-downs from friends or relatives. However, parents who plan to do so should be mindful of a few important safety concerns before exposing their children to potential risks.

The materials used in the construction of a car seat wear down over the course of time. For that reason, all car seats have expiration dates. Before buckling your child into a secondhand car seat, parents should make sure the expiration date has not passed. Furthermore, car seat manufacturers recommend replacing car seats that were used in a vehicle that has been involved in a collision, even a minor one. Before buying used car seats or booster seats, parents should ensure that it has been involved in any kind of accident. 

Finally, before purchasing a safety restraint for your child, parents should double-check that it has been approved for use in Canada. To do so, parents should only purchase car seats that have the National Safety Mark.

Understanding the Difference Between Safety Restraints

Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act outlines the province’s regulations for seat belts and child restraint systems. In accordance with these regulations, during their first year of life, infants must be secured in rear-facing car seats. These safety restraints can protect the baby’s head, neck, and spine in the event of a crash or sudden stop. 

Parents are not allowed to upgrade their child’s safety restraint to a forward-facing car seat until the infant is at least one year old and weighs more than 10 kg (22 lb). Forward-facing car seats use a tether strap to hold the seat firmly in place in the event of a collision, and a five-point harness to allow the child to sit comfortably without accidentally unbuckling themselves or moving out of the safe position.

In accordance with the province’s car seat laws, parents are not allowed to transition their child to a booster seat until they have reached a minimum weight of 18 kg (40 lb). Once children have reached this third stage of safety restraints, parents are required to ensure that they use their booster seat whenever they ride in a car until they have either reached a height of 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) or the age of 9. Booster seats raise a child to a higher position in the vehicle so that they can benefit from the design of an adult seat belt. Booster seats provide children with 3.5 times more protection against serious injuries in the event of a collision.

Once children have reached the age of 9 or the height of 145 cm, they may begin riding in passenger vehicles without a booster seat. School aged children who can sit up straight against the back of their seat with their legs bent comfortably over the seat’s edge are required to wear seat belts when traveling by car. The seat belt’s shoulder strap should be able to fit comfortably across their shoulder and chest, and the lap belt crossed over their hips (not their stomachs). Children must be able to maintain this seated position for the entire duration of the car trip.

Transport Canada recommends that children under the age of 13 should be seated in the backseat of a car. However, if parents allow their child to sit in the front seat, their seat should be moved back as far as possible. In the event of a collision, if an airbag is deployed and a child is seated too close to the dashboard, the airbag could cause injuries.

Check for Recalls and Safety Alerts Before Buying

Before purchasing their child’s first safety restraint or upgrading to a more appropriately sized car seat, parents need to do their research. However, evaluating the numerous options available can be time-consuming. And time is not a luxury many new parents have.

Safety restraints for your child’s protection in a car will be some of the most important purchases you ever make. It is important to ensure that the model you decide on has not been the subject of a recall or other kind of safety alert. 

Transport Canada publishes information about car seat safety notices and recalls. Canadian parents who are trying to decide which model car seat to purchase can look up manufacturers and model numbers on the federal government’s online database to ensure that they meet the national safety standards. 

Improper Car Seat Use Can Be Deadly

Transport Canada estimates that 80% of car seats in the country are used incorrectly. To reduce their children’s risk of serious injuries and death, parents must read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before installing their car seat and booster seat.

Failing to properly install a car seat, placing it in the wrong spot within the vehicle, incorrectly buckling in your child, or reclining the seat at the wrong angle could have devastating consequences. 

Other important car seat safety tips include:

  • Remove your child’s bulky clothes or snowsuits before buckling them into their car seat
  • Do not attach add-ons to the car seat that have not been approved by its manufacturer 
  • Buckle harness straps snugly
  • Make sure your child meets the provincial weight, height, and age requirements before transitioning them to a forward-facing seat, booster seat, or seat belt
  • Do not position the car seat in the vehicle’s front seat near its airbags 
  • And more

How Preszler Injury Lawyers May Be Able to Help after a Car Accident

If you or your children have been injured in a car accident caused by another party’s negligence, Preszler Injury Lawyers may be able to help you take legal action against the at-fault party to recover financial compensation for damages you have incurred as a result. 

To discuss your case in a free, initial, no-obligation consultation, contact us today. For a free, initial consultation, call Preszler Injury Lawyers at 902-405-8282.