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Is your car seat safe? Common mistakes that can put your child at risk

A new study by BCAA shows that many parents don’t check their childrens’ car seats often enough to know they’re safe

If you’re a parent, one of your top priorities is your child’s safety, and in a vehicle that safety has a lot to do with the car seat your kid is strapped into.

While many parents check and double check the seat and belt are secure, a new BCAA survey suggests a number of caregivers are making mistakes without even knowing it.

READ MORE: Alberta mom’s loose car seat straps caused by food debris: Transport Canada

“Everyday mistakes could put children at risk,” Shawn Pettipas, who manages BCAA’s car seat safety program, said.

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One of the biggest issues according to Pettipas is improper installation.

READ MORE: New video aimed at helping Maritime Arabic-speaking families use car seats

According to Pettipas most parents are confident they are installing and using their car seat correctly, but in many instances that isn’t the case.

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The survey found most parents, two-thirds of those questioned, installed the seats themselves, (which isn’t necessarily a problem if instructions in the car seat and vehicle manuals are followed properly.)

It also found half of parents don’t regularly check that their child’s seat is sitting properly, more than 20 per cent aren’t sure if the child is in the seat properly and 17 per cent don’t know if they have the right size seat for their child’s age and weight.

“We were surprised with the survey results because at every one of our car seat clinics, we find so many seats improperly installed, kids in the wrong type of seat, second-hand seats, and worried parents baffled after realizing how much they don’t know,” Pettipas said.

Another problem spot is the proper inspection and use of second-hand car seats.

The survey asked parents about the safety of used car seats and found half of those questioned believe it’s safe to use as long as it’s in ‘good condition.’

“Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it’s safe,” Pettipas said.

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Nearly 30 per cent admit they don’t know the history of the car seat.

“Not knowing the full history of a second-hand car seat means parents can’t be absolutely certain of the seat’s condition and this can put their kid at risk,” Pettipas continued.

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So what should you do?

BCAA released the following tips to make sure your child stays safe:

  1. Use correct child car seat for child’s age and size. Take note of weight and height limits for car seats.
  2. Ensure proper installation. Read vehicle and child car seat manuals before using child car seat. Proper installation includes the child car seat being placed on an appropriate vehicle seat, positioned correctly and properly secured.
  3. Find a local car seat clinic. Parents and caregivers can attend workshops like ones offered by BCAA to learn more and receive hands-on installation education. If a car seat clinic is unavailable in your area or you have questions, contact BCAA’s Child Passenger Safety information line at 1-877-247-5551.
  4. Ensure your child is properly placed and secured in the car seat.
  • Adjust harness straps to the correct height: Rear-facing (below child’s shoulders) or forward-facing (above the shoulders)
  • Both harness strap latches should be fastened (both have been clicked into the buckle).
  • Harness straps are snug (only room for one finger or less between harness and child’s collar bone).
  • Chest clip positioned at the child’s armpit level.
  1. Regularly check car seat position and condition.
  • Wiggle test: Hold car seat at the belt path and give it a side-to-side wiggle. Car seat should not move sideways more than 2.5 cm (1 inch).
  • Look for signs of wear and tear such as frayed harnesses, torn padding, cracks in the shell. Clean out every day crumbs and dirt from around the straps and buckle.
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  1. If a second-hand car seat must be used, be absolutely certain of its full history. Ensure the seat hasn’t been involved in any collision or dropped. Check for recalls and ensure it is within its expiry date.