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Safe Travels: Essential Tips for Properly Fitting Child Car Seats

Ensuring the safety of our youngest passengers is paramount during car travel. Learn how to approach car seat use safely with expert tips on reviewing manuals, checking expiry dates, seeking professional check-ups, anticipating growth spurts, and always having a backup.

Ensuring the safety of our little passengers must be a priority in car travel, and properly fitted child seats play a pivotal role in achieving this goal. They are designed to provide optimal protection tailored to a child’s size and age, while significantly reducing the risk of injury in the event of a collision. As parents and caregivers, it is our responsibility to understand the role these seats play in safeguarding our children during every journey.

Approach car seat use safely with the following tips.

  1. Take the time to review your car seat manual:
    There are a wide range of differences in growth and development patterns of children in terms of weight and height within the same age bracket. To ensure that the maximum safety for each child car seat is achieved, manufacturers use height and weight to establish the safety limitations.

    Prepare your children for a safe ride to and from school by double-checking your car seat’s minimum and maximum weight, and height ranges. If they are not within the limits or if they’re getting close to the limits, it’s time to consider moving your child into their next car seat.

  2. Register your child’s car seat and check the expiry date:
    Remember to register your child’s car seat with the manufacturer as soon as you purchase it. By registering it with the manufacturer, you will give them the ability to contact you if there is a recall or important safety notice.

    When you purchase your car seat, you will find that in addition to the instruction manual and labels on your car seat there is an expiration date. Car seats, like most products, wear over time. There are several factors that are taken into consideration when determining an expiration date, including: frequency of use, environmental exposure (sunlight and fluctuating temperatures), and general wear and tear. It is important to note that every car seat has different expiry dates.

  3. Get an expert check-up:
    It is best to have a professional double-check your car seat installation. If this is your first car seat or if you are taking your car seat in and out regularly, it’s a good idea to have a professional review the installation with you.  A second opinion can help to make sure everything is installed properly, and you are not losing finer safety details.

  4. Be prepared for growth spurts:
    All children grow in different ways and at different times. Generally, car seats offer features that will grow with your child, including an adjustable headrest and/or adjustable harness shoulder belt.  The visual cues of your child’s head and shoulder appearance and placement in their car seat should help you identify when a good time is to start shopping for their next seat. Here are a few simple questions to help: Is my child’s head centered in the headrest? Are their ears above the top of the headrest? Is the harness placed at shoulder level? Is the harness too tight or too loose?

  5. Always have a backup:
    As your children grow so does their circle of friends. Be prepared. Have an emergency car seat or booster at home to help keep your child social and their friends safe. If you do not have the right car seat to keep them safe, ask their parents if you can use theirs or kindly decline to drive. The Canada Safety Council is a not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to the cause of safety.

For information on safety categories including youth, workplace, vehicle and road, and home and community, please visit our website at

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