Be Safely Seated: Tips for Ensuring Children are Protected in your Vehicle

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GUELPH, ON, May 23, 2006 – Summer is almost here. For many Canadian families, that means more travel and time in the car. With 8 out of 10 child car seats improperly installed, there’s no better time to inspect your child’s car seat and protect the ones you love.

“Installing children’s seats correctly is only the first step to protecting your little ones,” said Valerie Lee, executive director of the Infant & Toddler Safety Association (ITSA). “As children grow, as bulky snow suits are replaced by t-shirts, their seats must be adjusted. Taking a few minutes to inspect child seats and make the necessary adjustments could save a kid’s life.”

Seat belts are designed for adults. When children reach 18 kg (40 lbs) they should transition to a booster seat, which research indicates should be used until at least nine years of age. The following safety tips can help ensure that child car seats are properly protecting the children in your vehicle:

  • Is your car seat snugly installed in your vehicle? Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your car seat. Push the car seat down into the vehicle upholstery as you tighten the belt. The car seat should not move more than 2.5 cm (1 in.) toward the front of the vehicle or side to side at the belt path. For a rear-facing car seat, it is acceptable to be able to lift the seat toward the rear of the car or pivot it side to side. Remember, all forward-facing car seats must be anchored tightly with a tether strap.

  • Are the harnesses snug? Adjusted properly, only one finger width should fit between the harness and the child’s collar bone.

  • Are you using the correct harness slots? If your seat is rear-facing, the harness should come through the back of the seat at the level of, or slightly below, the child’s shoulders. On forward-facing seats, the harness should come through the back of the seat, above the child’s shoulders, according to your seat’s instructions.

  • Do the harness straps lie flat? The straps are wide so that the force of a collision or sudden stop will be spread over as large an area as possible.

  • Have you placed the plastic harness clip at armpit level to hold the shoulder straps in place?

  • Is your child dressed in clothes that allow the straps to fit between the legs? Now that bulky clothes are no longer needed, remember to tighten the straps.

  • Does your child slouch down or to the side? If so, pad the appropriate areas with a rolled up blanket. Never place padding behind or underneath a child.

  • Do you have an extra towel or blanket in your vehicle? In warm weather the car seat’s metal and plastic parts can get very hot. Cover the seat with a towel or blanket when it’s not being used. Check the temperature of the seat before putting your child into it.

  • Are all objects stowed away safely? Items left loose in the vehicle can harm passengers in the event of a collision or sudden change in direction.

“Our Buckle Up Bears inspectors have inspected thousands of child and booster seats and found that the majority of the problems could be solved by regularly checking and adjusting the seats,” said Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators. “With vacation season just around the corner, parents and caregivers are reminded to take the time to check that their children’s seats are providing the protection they need.”

To help keep kids safe, The Co-operators partners with ITSA to bring Buckle Up Bears, a series of free car seat clinics to a number of communities throughout Canada. Trained inspectors check child car seats and booster seats, and help educate drivers on their proper use. For more information, please visit www.cooperators.ca.

About the Infant & Toddler Safety Association:

ITSA is a volunteer-run registered charity. Since its inception in 1980, ITSA has been dedicated to protecting those who cannot protect themselves – our children. ITSA is recognized nationally for its leadership role in developing and delivering car seat training programs, developing car seat inspection clinics and in supporting individuals and community groups. ITSA can be reached toll-free at 1-888-570-0181.

About The Co-operators:

Based in Guelph, Ontario, The Co-operators is a group of Canadian companies focussing on insurance as well as investment products and property development. Owned by 33 Canadian co-operative and like-minded organizations, The Co-operators is well known for its philanthropy and community involvement.