Many parents unaware of car seat dangers

Majority of Canadian parents don't follow proper protocol: expert

Girl in car seat
A parent should remove a child’s coat before securing the car seat harness tightly against their chest. CiCi Moya/Toronto Observer

On June 25, 2018, Jennifer Penick and her husband Adam, both from Omaha, Neb., were killed in a vehicle collision. Their five-year-old daughter, Unity, survived the crash.

Jennifer was an advocate for car seat safety, a certified child passenger safety technician (CPST), and a colleague of Shelley Broadley of Car Seats For The Littles, a car seat safety advocacy group.

The fact that her little girl survived is proof that what we do is important and that it works, says Broadley, trainer and certified CPST, and founder of Foothills Car Seat Safety, based in Okotoks, Alta.

In 2017, there were 114,158 vehicle collisions reported in Canada that resulted in fatalities and personal injuries. Of that number, 2,744 children zero to four years old were injured, according to Transport Canada.

The majority of Canadian parents do not follow proper car seat safety protocol, says Broadley.

I had no idea. No one ever told me this before.

—Cosette Kamikazi

A 2015 Canadian roadside observation study published in the journal Advances in Pediatric Research reported that, of the 1,323 child vehicle restraints inspected, only 48 per cent of restraints were correctly installed.

According to the Canadian Paediatrics Society’s public position statement, the top three common car seat errors are:

    1. The seat is not tightly secured to the vehicle (moves more than 2.5 cm in any direction);
    2. The harness is not snug (more than one finger width fits between the harness strap and the child);
    3. The chest clip is not at armpit level.

While there is a lot of confusion about how to safely use child car seats, there is a particular danger associated with strapping a small child in their car seat over their winter coat. A parent should remove a child’s coat before securing the car seat harness tightly against their chest, and either place the jacket on top of them or use a blanket to keep them warm. This detail is largely unknown by parents, according to Broadley.

I conducted an informal, three-question anonymous survey on my personal social media accounts, asking parents about their habits and knowledge around car seat safety.


Only six out of 36 respondents say they sought the help of a professional, such as a police officer or a car seat technician, to learn how to install a car seat.

Results from informal social media survey on car seat safety, March 2019 (CiCi Moya Surveymonkey/Toronto Observer)

Cosette Kamikazi, 32, is a single mother and immigrant to Canada who arrived in Toronto six years ago.

“I tried to read the manual [which came with the car seat] but it was difficult to understand. I managed to install it by myself. I didn’t know there was a professional to help with that,” says Kamikazi.

Broadley says a technician can confirm which instruction is valid and which is not, and to inform parents about what may not be common knowledge.

“We want to make sure that all Canadian children are transported as safely as possible,” says Katherine Hutka, president of the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada (CPSAC). “We do that by providing training to CPSTs, who then provide education and support to parents and families.”

“Most people don’t even know that [technicians] exist,” Broadley adds. “You’re getting bombarded with partial information from all sorts of sources.”

Hutka says parents can easily find a nearby CPST on the CPSAC website, and advice on how to choose and install the right car seat.

The informal social media survey also suggests that the majority of respondents do not remove their child’s winter coat before attaching the car seat belt. Nearly half say they were never told to do it.

Results from informal social media survey on car seat safety, March 2019 (CiCi Moya Surveymonkey/Toronto Observer)

Results from informal social media survey on car seat safety, March 2019 (CiCi Moya Surveymonkey/Toronto Observer)

“I had no idea. No one ever told me this before,” says Kamikazi.

Prisca Gomis, 34, a Toronto mother of two small children, says that the challenge she foresees in the future is the extra time that it will take to warm up the car enough to seat her toddler, to then remove his winter coat before attaching the belt, and putting it back on when exiting the car — a process that would need to be repeated twice or sometimes three times a day.

“Parents have to remember that kids are not quick,” says Broadley. “Everything takes extra time when you deal with small children.”

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Posted: Apr 17 2019 6:44 pm
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