Safety in the car and proper use of carseats and booster seats can be quite confusing to many parents. Unfortunately minimum standards are just that, minimum. In the spirit of keeping our kids as safe as we can, I've compiled a list of the minimum Canadian Safety Standards and compared them with the standards car seat technicians recommend.
Rear Facing: Children should be kept rear facing...
Minimum: 20 lbs and 1 year
Recommended for Maximum safety: 30-35lbs with at least 1″ of the carseat shell above the child's head - regardless of age. Once your child outgrows his/her infant carrier, you will need a convertible carseat which will allow them to rear face longer. Kids of all ages are 5 times safer rear facing than forward facing. Car seat technicians recommend you keep your kids rear facing until the hit the weight limit of the seat, until age 3 and 4! Children under the age of 2 are at higher risk of serious spinal injuries in a forward facing carseat. Their spine can stretch up to 2" in a collision, their spinal cord can only stretch about an inch. The result is known as internal decapitation, their skull is literally ripped from the spine internally.
It is important to note that there is no risk to a childs legs if their feet touch the backseat.
I'll post an article on the benifits of extended rear facing soon.
Forward Facing in a 5 point harness: Children should remain harnessed...
Minimum: 4 years AND 40 lbs
Recommended for Maximum Safety: 65 lbs, with the harness sraps at or above the child's shoulders and top of the child's ears at or below that top of the seat - regardless of age.
(Changes to Canadian Law provide parents with the option of keeping their children in a 5 point harness up to 65 lbs. Seats available in Canada with a 65lb weight limit:
Convertible seats: Britax Marathon, Sunshine Kids Radian, Safety First True Fit, Britax Boulevard
Stage II carseats that convert to a booster: Safety First Apex., Britax Frontier, Graco Nautilus)
Booster Seat: Children should remain in a booster seat...
Minimum: 4′9″ tall or 80 lbs or 8 years old
Recommended for Maximum Safety: 4′9″ tall and 80 lbs, and successfully completing the 5 Step Test:
1. Does the child sit all the way back against the seat?
2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat?
3. Is the lap belt touching the top of the thighs, not the abdomen?
4. Is the shoulder belt centered on the shoulder and chest?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
If you answer "No" to any of these questions, your child should remain in a booster seat regardless of age. It is important to note that every vehicle is different, so a child may pass the 5 step test in 1 vehicle, but not in the other.