WHY USE A CHILD SAFETY SEAT?
It's the law in Alberta that a driver must ensure children under the age of 16 are properly restrained. In addition, research has found that child safety seats can reduce the risk of serious and fatal injury by around 60-70%!
But your child needs to use in the most appropriate child safety seat to get the most safety benefit. Here's how to choose what kind of child safety seat your child should be using.
1. REAR-FACING CAR SEAT (birth until at least 2 yrs)
A child is safest in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years old OR until they reach the maximum weight or height limit for the rear-facing seat (as stated by the manufacturer).
Rear-facing car seats keep your child in the safest position. Think about how it feels during a sudden stop - your body continues to move forward and your seat belt stops you, right? This means that in a rear-facing car seat, the momentum of a sudden stop will press the child backward into the car seat.
So use this kind of car seat for as long as you can. Consider looking for a rear-facing car seat with weight and height limits that go beyond the average for age 2.
2. FORWARD-FACING CAR SEAT (at least 2 yrs until at least 6 yrs or 40lbs)
By law in Alberta, children under the age of 6 who weigh 18kg (40lbs) or less must be in a child safety seat.
Once your child is at least 2 years old OR has reached the maximum height or weight limit for their rear-facing car seat, they should be in a forward-facing car seat.
They should use the forward-facing car seat until they are at least 6 years old or weigh more than 18 kgs (40lbs) AND have reached the maximum height or weight limit for the car seat (as stated by the manufacturer).
3. BOOSTER SEAT (at least 6 yrs or 40lbs until a seat belt fits)
Booster seats are not required by law in Alberta. Drivers must ensure children aged 6-15 or who weigh more than 40lbs wear a seat belt. However, booster seats are highly recommended because they help position a child so the shoulder-lap belt fits across the child's chest and hips, rather than their neck and stomach.
Once your child is 6 years old or weighs more than 18kg (40lbs) AND has reached the maximum height or weight limit for their forward-facing car seat, they should be in a booster seat.
Your child should remain in the booster seat until they reach the maximum height or weight limit for the booster seat (as stated by the manufacturer) AND a seat belt fits properly.
4. SEAT BELT
Your child is ready to use a seat belt when the vehicle's seat belt fits properly. This is typically when a child is at least 145 cm (4’9”) tall and between 8 and 12 years of age.
The seat belt fits when:
• the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat when they are sitting against the back of the seat
• the shoulder belt crosses the chest and stays between the child's neck and shoulder (not between the chin and neck)
• the lap belt crosses the child's hips (not the stomach)
Children are safest and should remain in the backseat until they are at least 13 years old.
Read the Recommendations for Car Seat, Booster Seat and Seat Belt Use for Children from Alberta Health Services.
Read the Canadian Paediatric Society's position statement on transporting children in motor vehicles.
Learn about Canadian recommendations on choosing a child seat from Transport Canada.