Police and Health Services work together in educating drivers on the proper use of car seats.
Many children are killed or injured every year in Canada due to traffic accidents, according to Transport Canada. The majority of these incidences are due to the misuse of car seats, also known as child safety restraints.
To prevent this, Alberta Health Services and the Calgary police perform car seat safety checks within the city and surrounding area each month. Police officers assess whether child restraints are properly installed in the vehicle and that each child is safely restrained.
If they are not, the driver will face a ticket for each infraction. Some drivers leave the check-stop with hundreds of dollars in tickets.
Erin Bolger was pulled over at a check-stop that resulted in three tickets. Two were the result of loose harnesses, on both her two-year-old daughter’s booster seat and her seven-month-old son’s rear-facing seat.
“It had been cold the week before and they had worn their snowsuits,” Bolger said. “This was just a quick trip and it had warmed up. I hadn’t adjusted the harnesses from when it was cold and they were too loose.”
LaVonne Ries demonstrates proper child car-seat installation.
Photo: Kourtney Tateson/Calgary Journal
Bulky clothing such as snowsuits can interfere with the tightness of the harness inside the safety restraint. This means that the harness may not be as snug as it should be and the child may be thrown from the seat in the event of a collision. Instead, Alberta Health Services recommends the use of layering and a light sweater to dress the child.
Parents can talk to private consultants like LaVonne Ries at Keepin’ Baby Safe for help with the installation and fitting of their car seats. As well, drivers like Bolger are eligible to have their tickets cancelled if they attend Alberta Health Services’ free course, Every Ride a Safe Ride.
Held twice a month in the auditorium of the Kinsmen Learning Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, the two-hour class is open to everyone and averages an attendance of 43 people.
Carol Beringer of Alberta Health Services said in an email that about 52 per cent of attendees to the class are there because they received tickets, with the most common infractions being: the seat-belt or Universal Anchorage System is not properly used or is too loose; the harness is not snug enough on the child; the tether strap on a forward-facing seat is loose or not used at all; or the child is in a seat that is inappropriate for his/her height and weight.
Const. David Hancock of the Calgary Police Service is a member of the Calgary traffic education unit, which performs the monthly check-stops.
“The majority of people think that they are doing it properly, but they don’t read the manual,” said Hancock. “When we tell them what they’re doing wrong and what can be done, they’re very appreciative.”
During the Jan. 26 course that Bolger attended, a video was shown that described in detail how to properly install and secure a child safety restraint. A question-and answer period followed where parents could address any issues that were still unclear.
Like Bolger, many parents were concerned about the safety of bulky, winter clothing or bunting bags.
After attending the course, Bolger said that she found it very beneficial.
“I think my kids are really cute. I want to keep them,” she said, with a smile.