January 18th, 2018

Viva Vitality: Keeping children their safest in their child safety seats

By Medicine Hat News on December 29, 2017.

Child safety seats, also known as car seats, can be one of the many intimidating aspects of parenting. There are many types of child seats to choose from and it can be overwhelming to find the perfect seat that is compatible with your vehicle, and most importantly is compatible with your child. Finding the right seat is dependent on the age, height, and weight of your child; this information is then compared to the Owner’s Manual of a Safety Seat, as each seat specifies different regulations for children’s safety.

As if simply choosing the right safety seat for your child was not enough of an overwhelming decision, there is a lot of information and aftermarket products trying to grab parents’ attention to advocate further safety and comfort in children’s safety seats. Although, it is not the intention of these markets/businesses to put children at danger, these types of products and information can do just that. Here’s why: These aftermarket products are not tested by Transport Canada (the company that tests the safety of Canadian Car Seats). Transport Canada audits and tests the standards of car seat manufacturers. They investigate testing failures, inspection failures, and public complaints about safety defects. Therefore, we cannot guarantee this type of safety evidence for a product that has not been safety tested by Transport Canada (Government of Canada, 2017).

The concerns are explained by Transport Canada as a cause for safety issues that range from slack in the harness system, which could cause the child to be partially or fully ejected from the car seat if involved in a collision or sudden stop (Transport Canada, 2013). Other instances include having a hard object in front of a child that could cause an injury to the child due to the force of impact involved in a collision or sudden stop. So what exactly are some of these products, you may ask? Here is a list of common aftermarket products, however this list does not include all aftermarket products available.

– Harness Strap Covers: These wrap around the shoulder harness system of the restraint. These products should not be used as they prevent the chest clip from being positioned at armpit level, an important component of the system to keep the child secure.

– Add-on trays: A plastic tray or foot-rest that seem attractive for children in forward-facing or booster seats. This hard object being placed in front of the child could result in an injury should a crash or sudden stop occur.

– Head support cushions: If there is a head cushion that accompanies your child seat that means it has been tested for that model and make of the restraint. If a head support is bought separately, then it may not line up properly with the harness, which could increase the risk of ejection from the car seat if involved in a collision.

– Additional padding behind the car seats: This padding can both induce the slack in the harness system and additional compressibility. This means that if a collision or sudden stop were to occur, the foam or material could compress so far as to loosen the harness system, which would no longer restrain the child.

– Padded car seat bags: (also includes reference to bulky snowsuits) child seat manufacturers state to never add anything between the shell (base) of the restraint and the child. Padded car seat bags or if a child is in a bulky snow suit, can affect the harness system to be re-routed and add slack, which increases the compressibility and increasing the risk of the child not being restrained in a collision or sudden stop.

– Mobiles or rear-facing mirrors: These add-on toys can be attractive as they can occupy and entertain children while in the vehicle. Mirrors are also popular when children are rear-facing, allowing children to see the driver and the driver to see the child. However, they do cause a major safety concern, as they are typically attached in front of the child’s face. Therefore, if a collision occurred and the object became detached, there is an increased risk of the object injuring the child.

– Seat-belt adjusters: These products pull the lap portion and the shoulder portion of the seatbelt together. This becomes problematic as the lap portion tends to sit on the soft abdominal area of the child, rather than around their hips, which is where we want it. This location of the belt around the abdomen can cause serious injury or death to the occupant in the event of a collision. Other types of adjusters focus on pulling the shoulder portion away from the face of the child, which changes the configuration of the lap belt. If the lap belt is not fitting the child properly around their shoulders or hips, this could mean that they should still be in a booster seat.

This is not an exclusive list of the aftermarket products that are available, however they do tend to be the most popular. It is important that we all understand the risks and hazards associated with the use of these products.

* Please be aware that any aftermarket product produced by the child safety seat manufacturer for use with their products, has been tested with their products and is acceptable only with their products.

Let’s step into this holiday season and enter the New Year as informed parents, guardians, and adults on keeping our children their safest in their child safety seats.

Chloe McNamee is a health promotion facilitator with Alberta Health Services and can be reached by email at chloe.mcnamee@ahs.ca

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