Written by Randy Youngman
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when transporting their child is moving them out of their Child Restraint Seats too early. Legally, your child must weigh at least 18 kg (40 lbs.) before you can consider moving them out of their seat. As long as your child still fits within the weight and height ranges for his or her forward-facing seat, it is safest to use that seat as long as possible.
Once they do outgrow their child seat there is an important and proper way to keep them safe in the next stage of their transport needs. The use of a booster seat is highly recommended and allows the vehicle’s seat belt to better fit a small child. Once a child graduates from a child safety seat, they should use a booster seat until they turn nine years of age or reach a weight of 37 kg (80 lbs).
The purpose of a booster seat is simply to raise the child up to allow the seat belt to properly fit the child. The shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the child’s chest and the lap portion of the belt should touch the hips. Always install the booster seat in the back seat of your car. This way, your child is as far away as possible from the front seat air bags should they inflate during a collision.
Read your car owner’s manual and booster seat user-guide to learn how to properly install your particular seat. A correctly installed booster seat should keep the lap and shoulder belts in place across your child’s hips, chest and shoulders. If you are using a low-backed booster, the vehicle MUST have adjustable head restraints. They will help protect your child’s head and neck in a crash.
If your booster seat has a back, make sure the middle of your child’s ears are lower than the top of the back of the booster seat. Some high backed boosters have a seat belt guide built into them. If there is one present, it should be at or slightly above your child’s shoulder. It is extremely important that the shoulder belt rests on your child’s shoulder, and never on the neck or arm, or under the arm. The lap belt should fit snugly against your child’s hips, and not on their stomach.
For more information on booster seats, call Randy Youngman 403-458-1890 or call your local RCMP detachment, police service or public health office. You can also access the Alberta Occupant Restraint Program Website at albertaseatbelts.ca. Visit www.saferoads.com.
Randy Youngman is a regional traffic safety consultant with the Alberta Office of Traffic Safety