How to make sure your child’s car seat keeps them safe and secure on the road
Your child’s car seat is essential to their overall safety while they’re in your vehicle, but it can be easy to “set it and forget it” when it comes to a car seat, which can be detrimental to your child’s safety. As seasons change and children grow, there are some important things you should do to make sure your kids’ car seats are always prepared to do their job, whether you’re taking a quick drive to the store or heading out of town. Consider these tips:
- Follow the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions. While installing a car seat might look pretty straightforward, it’s important to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation, safety checks, and maintenance. Revisit the instructions if you’re moving your car seat or lending it to the babysitter so they can drive your little one around in their own vehicle.
- Readjust the straps as your child grows or as seasons change. When your child grows or starts wearing different clothing as seasons change, adjust their car seat harness and check its overall fit. The harness should always be snug enough that you can’t easily grasp and pinch a horizonal fold in the top of either shoulder strap. You should also check that the harness is snug around your child’s hips and torso. If you’re adjusting the harness in colder weather, check the fit before putting on your child’s thicker layers — with a coat on, it may seemlike the harness is snug enough, but it should actually be adjusted to fit snug to your child’s body, not to the coat. Note: It’s not always safe to put your child in their car seat wearing a winter jacket, as the impact of a collision may cause the straps to compress the material, leaving the straps too loose to keep your child secure. Some winter coats shouldn’t be worn in a car seat at all, while others may specifically be advertised as car seat safe. Do your research before putting your child in their car seat with a winter jacket on.
- Keep your child in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, but know when it’s time for a change. In the event of a crash, your child will be best protected in a rear-facing car seat, so keep your child’s seat facing the rear of your vehicle until they reach the manufacturer’s recommended maximum weight and height limits. Each province will also have its own laws in place that specify how long a child must be in a rear-facing car seat, so make yourself aware of those laws as well (in Ontario, for example, the Highway Traffic Act requires children to use a rear-facing car seat until they weigh at least 20lbs). When your child outgrows their rear-facing infant seat, you may want to purchase a larger rear-facing seat or convertible car seat for them to use until they’re ready to face forwards. Always follow your provincial laws and the car seat manufacturer’s instructions before changing the direction of your child’s car seat.
- Take note of the car seat’s expiry date and replace it on time. Every car seat has an expiry date, but maybe you’re wondering, “Do car seats really expire? Is there anything wrong with using my five-year-old’s baby car seat for my newborn?” The answer to both of these questions is yes — car seats really do expire, and it’s unsafe to use an expired car seat for a new baby. While there are several reasons you should never use an expired car seat, here are just a couple of important ones:
- Car seat manufacturers incorporate the latest crash test data and technological advances in materials and manufacturing into their new designs, so your outdated car seat may be missing out on innovations and features that could amp up your child’s safety
- The materials that make up a car seat can deteriorate after sitting in your vehicle for an extended period of time — especially if you live in Canada, where temperatures fluctuate significantly over the course of a year
- If a car seat has been involved in a collision, replace it. Whether or not your child was in the car seat at the time of the accident, there’s a chance that the seat’s safety capabilities have been compromised. Even if you can’t see signs of damage, you should properly dispose of the car seat and buy a new one — you’ll likely be able to claim
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claim this purchase through your car insurance company. Never give away or leave a car seat at the side of the road if it has been involved in a collision.
How do you claim the cost of a new car seat after a collision?
If you’ve been involved in a collision with your child’s car seat in the vehicle, you can most likely claim the cost of a similar replacement seat through your car insurance company. Before you dispose of the car seat, ask your insurer
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insurer what’s required for them to process the claim. Most insurers will require you to provide a photo of the car seat with its safety straps cut (to ensure it will no longer be used), along with the invoice for the replacement car seat and a photo showing its label and logo. Depending on your coverage, you may have to pay for part or all of the purchase yourself.
Wondering if your own car insurance coverage would cover the cost of a replacement car seat following a collision? Reach out to your group’s licensed car insurance broker to find out.
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