- Air bags are designed to protect adults and older children but can seriously hurt a young child or infant.
- Keep children under 13 years of age away from air bags by putting them in the back seat of the vehicle.
- If your child under 13 years of age must sit in the front seat, it’s important to turn the air bag off.
- Products that don’t come with a new car seat should not be used. Some examples include: bunting bags, seatbelt adjusters, attachable plastic trays or mirrors, harness strap covers or head support pads.
- These products were not crash-tested with the car seats and could contribute to injury in a collision or sudden stop.
Back seat or front seat?
- It is strongly recommended that children under 13 years of age always ride in the back seat of a vehicle. All passengers are safest in the back seat, but since that’s not always possible, experts agree that younger passengers should sit in the back because they are less physically developed and more at risk of severe injury.
- When parents need to transport several children and all the back seats are being used, the oldest child may sit in the front seat.
- No matter where your child sits, they must be in a car seat that is right for their height, weight and age and the car seat must be attached correctly to the vehicle seat.
- If the car seat manual indicates that both a lap belt and shoulder belt are necessary (with a booster seat for example), or that a tether strap is required, this must be followed.
- Rear-facing car seats should never be put in the front seat of a vehicle because this is too dangerous for the infant.
- The front passenger air bags must be turned off if your under-13 child is sitting in the front seat. Air bags are designed to protect larger passengers but can seriously hurt a child. Vehicle manuals provide information on turning off air bags and car dealerships can also help.
Clothing in car seats
- Car seat experts advise against dressing children in bulky snowsuits when they are in car seats. Thick and/or puffy winter jackets prevent car seat straps from sitting securely against the child’s chest.
- Dress children in fall weather clothing, such as an undershirt, hat and fleece sleeper. Once your child is in the seat and the straps are secure, you can place a blanket over them.
- Even if car seat straps are secured over a bulky jacket, in a collision the force and impact can cause the jacket to decompress, and the straps to become loose.
- Thinner, less-bulky snowsuits are acceptable alternatives to “cuddle bags” and sleeping bags. However, straps must be secured tightly, not just resting on top of clothing, and readjusted each time your child is placed in the car seat.
- Bulky sports equipment, such as shoulder pads and hockey pants, can also interfere with proper car seat fit. Dress children in a base layer to travel to the venue, then put their remaining gear on in the car or dressing room when you arrive.
Never leave your child alone in the car
- Children have suffered from heat- or cold-related injury and even death when they have been left alone in hot or cold cars.
- Children can also become trapped in power windows when they put their head out the window of a parked car and lean on the window switch. You can prevent this type of injury by never leaving your child alone in a parked or idling vehicle. Some newer vehicles have lever switches, which are safer than other types of switches.
- Take sleeping babies and children out of the vehicle right away after stopping the car. Be sure to lock vehicle doors and the trunk when not in use so older children don’t get in the vehicle.
- Use memory aids to make sure a child is never forgotten in the car. Placing your smartphone, house/office keys, purse or backpack in the back seat with the child can protect against a memory lapse to ensure they won’t be unintentionally forgotten.
Sleeping in car seats
Children often fall asleep in their car seats while travelling but car seats are only designed to transport your child safely in a vehicle and they should never be used in place of a crib. Here are some guidelines that parents and caregivers should follow.
- Newborns are at risk of breathing difficulties while in car seats because they lack the strength in their necks to hold their heads up. Limit time in the seat for a newborn and make sure they are positioned properly and breathing comfortably when travelling. A semi-upright position is not healthy for newborns.
- Once a baby reaches one month of age, the risk of breathing difficulty is greatly reduced, but parents should still be careful to check on them and take rest stops during longer trips. A car seat is not a safe place for your baby to sleep.
- Ensure that a rear-facing car seat is at the correct angle of 45 degrees. This reduces the risk of your baby’s head dropping forward and causing breathing problems.
- When you use an infant carrier or car seat outside of a vehicle, only do so for a short time and stay close by. It’s important to keep your baby buckled in and place the seat on a low level, such as the floor rather than on a table. This will reduce the chance of the car seat falling.