Choosing the Best Car Seat for Your Child in British Columbia

On average, 1,300 children younger than 10 are injured in a motor vehicle collision in British Columbia each year, according to ICBC—and five die as a result of their injuries. Seeing a child injured—or worse—as the result of a car accident is a parent’s worst nightmare, but there are steps that every B.C. parent can take to help protect their children on the road.

One of the most important steps in keeping children safe while traveling is using the right car seat or booster seat for a child’s age, height, and weight. According to ICBC, research has shown that properly used car seats reduce the risk of death and serious injury by around 70%.

Using the right car seat for your children is not just a good idea—it’s the law. British Columbia requires children to be safely restrained in a vehicle while it is in operation. Keep reading to get a better idea of what British Columbia law requires and how best to protect your children while in a vehicle.

B.C. Car Seat Laws

Section 220 of the Motor Vehicle Act requires that a person in a motor vehicle must wear a seat belt if one is available. Violating this requirement can result in a fine of $167.

For children, Division 36 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations contains special restraint requirements. These regulations define four stages of child-restraint systems that must be used as your child ages and grows.

Infants: Rear-Facing Car Seat

Children must use a rear-facing car seat that is appropriate for their height and weight until they are at least one year old and at least 9 kg.

However, the car seat may not be positioned in a seat with an active frontal airbag. Rather, car seats should be positioned in the back seat of a vehicle if one is available.

A child who is at least one year old and 9 kg can continue to use the rear-facing car seat until it is no longer appropriate for his or her height or weight according to the manufacturer’s specifications. In fact, the B.C. Automobile Association recommends that parents keep their children rear-facing “as long as possible.”

Toddlers: Forward-Facing Car Seat

A child who is at least one year old and weighs at least 9 kg must be fastened in a forward-facing car seat (or a rear-facing seat if still appropriate). The child must continue to use the forward-facing car seat until he or she weighs 18 kg or more.

Once the child weighs more than 18 kg, he or she can continue using the same car seat until it is no longer appropriate for his or her height or weight according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Under 9: Booster Seat

Once a child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, he or she must be fastened on a booster seat that is appropriate for his or her height and weight. The booster seat must be placed in a position with a seat belt that includes both an upper torso restraint and a pelvic restraint if one is available.

The child must continue using the booster seat at least until he or she reaches a height of 145 cm. At that point, he or she can continue using the booster seat until it is no longer appropriate for his or her height and weight according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Youth: Seatbelt

A child who has outgrown his or her booster seat must use a seat belt that includes an upper torso restraint and a pelvic restraint if one is available in the car. If no seat has such a seat belt, then the child must use a seat belt with a pelvic restraint.

ICBC recommends that children 12 and under who have outgrown a booster seat should still sit in the back seat.

Booster and Car Seat Safety Tips

When shopping for or using a car seat in British Columbia, keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Look for the National Safety Mark. Car-seat manufacturers whose car seats meet Canadian safety regulations are authorized to affix the National Safety Mark to their products. If you purchase a car seat without the National Safety Mark, it is not guaranteed to meet minimum safety standards.
  • Only buy car seats in Canada. Car seats imported from the United States or elsewhere do not bear the National Safety Mark and may not be compliant with Canadian safety regulations.
  • Ideally, buy new. Transport Canada recommends only buying new car seats. If you must buy used, review the warnings on Transport Canada’s website—and never buy a car seat that has been involved in an accident.
  • Install car seats properly. A car seat will be of little use in protecting your child if it is not installed properly. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and follow them closely when you set up a child’s car seat.
  • Pay attention to recalls. Although car seats are regulated by Transport Canada and undergo testing, some may become subject to a recall because they pose a risk of harm or otherwise fail safety standards. You can learn about car seat recalls at Transport Canada’s website or by registering your car seat when you first buy it.
  • Pay attention to expiry dates. Manufacturers of Canadian car seats include an expiry date, or useful life date, on their car seats. These dates account for the possibility of product degradation through use, changing standards, and other circumstances by recommending a date beyond which the car seat should no longer be used.

Keep Your Children Safe While Driving in B.C.

There are no sure-fire methods for preventing car accidents while your children are with you on the road. But by following B.C. law and securing your children in an appropriate car seat or booster seat that is properly installed and meets minimum Canadian safety requirements, you can help dramatically reduce the risk that your children will be injured if you are involved in an automobile accident.

If you or your child has been injured in an automobile accident, you should contact one of the experienced personal injury lawyers of Preszler Law Firm for help obtaining compensation for your injuries.

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