Booster seats

New law promotes child safety

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, September / October 2013

Riding in a car can be great fun for children, as they're driven to birthday parties, distant parks and play dates.

But it can also be dangerous for those who are not properly protected.

In Canada, more than 70 children aged 12 and under are killed, and more than 10,000 are injured, in car crashes each year. In Manitoba, motor vehicle collisions are a leading cause of injury and death among children between the ages of four and nine.

Among those children at risk for injury are kids who are too big for a car seat, but too small to use a seat belt effectively, according to Dr. Lynne Warda, medical consultant with the Winnipeg Health Region's Injury Prevention program.

Research shows that adult seatbelts ride too high on children's bellies, which can cause serious internal injuries in a collision.

Warda says this problem can be addressed by using a booster seat to ensure a child is seated high enough so their seatbelt fits properly across the shoulder and chest, and sits low across the lap.

Studies show that children who are restrained with seatbelts without booster seats are 3.5 times more likely to be injured in a car crash and 4.2 times more likely to suffer a head injury.

"A number of large-scale studies have shown a lower risk of injury for children restrained in booster seats, with up to 82 per cent reduction in side-impact injuries, 45 per cent reduction in serious injuries and 14 per cent reduction in all types of injuries," says Warda, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Medicine.

As a result, the province has passed a new law to support the use of booster seats. Effective Aug. 8, children are required to use a booster seat until they:

  • Are 145 cm or 4 feet 9 inches tall
  • Weigh 36 kg or 80 lb
  • Are nine years old.

Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau says the law will help keep kids safe. "We want families to use booster seats until children can be safely and properly restrained by seatbelts alone," says Rondeau.

Under the new legislation, booster seats must also comply with Canada's motor vehicle safety standards and be installed and secured in a vehicle in accordance with the specifications of the device's manufacturer.

"Parents want confidence that their children are secured in the safest car seat available," says Rondeau. "These new rules ensure child car seats in Manitoba meet Canada's highest standards and are as safe as possible."

A public awareness campaign called "I Need A Boost" has been launched to provide education and resources for parents and guardians about booster seats.

Safety guidelines

Rear-facing: Use a rear-facing car seat from birth until your child reaches the weight and height limits. Some seats are made for children up to 20 kg (45 lb).

Forward-facing: Use a forward-facing car seat until your child reaches the maximum weight and height limits. Some seats are made for children up to 30 kg (65 lb).

Booster seat: Use a booster seat once your child reaches the maximum weight listed on their forward-facing car seat.

Seatbelt: Use a seatbelt only when your child is more than 145 cm (4' 9"), 36 kg (80 lb) or nine years old. Children 12 and under should ride in the back seat of the car.

Wave: Sept / Oct 2013

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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