Alberta Child Safety Seat Regulations for Vehicles

Every driver in Alberta knows that it is the law that all occupants of a vehicle are required to wear a seatbelt. The fine for not wearing a seatbelt is currently $115.00, and it is a violation that can get you pulled over without having committed any other traffic infraction.

When it comes to buckling in children, there are three categories of “child safety seat,” each designed for use by children under a certain age and weight. Two of these, the rear and the forward facing child seat, are required to be used under the law. The third type, the booster seat, is optional, but from a safety perspective, it is highly advisable that they be used regardless.

Buckled Up From Birth

Anyone who has ever handled a newborn quickly finds out that properly supporting their head is a safety issue. Under twelve months of age and 10kg, (22 pounds), babies are largely incapable of reliably supporting the weight of their own heads. Their neck musculature isn’t yet developed enough to cope with unexpected movement. This poor head control means that infants must ride in what are called, “rear facing” child safety seats, ones that cradle the head in a reclined position.

Under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, the driver is responsible to seeing that children riding in a vehicle are properly restrained, or risk the fine. For a rear facing infant, this means not only a seat of the proper type, it must also be correctly installed and properly used. According to Alberta Health Services, the use of a properly installed child seat reduces the chance of serious injury or death in a collision by 75 per cent.

Once your child passenger is older than a year – or over the 22kg mark – and capable of walking, a forward facing child safety seat may be used, but safety experts advise that the rear facing one should be used until it is outgrown, as it is the safest seat for toddlers too.

The forward facing child seat is required to be used until the child is of six years of age and exceeds 18kg, (40 pounds). There are many forward facing child seats on the market that can accommodate larger children, and some that have removable back rests so that the seat can be converted to booster use. Alberta Health Services recommends that children be restrained in forward facing child safety seats or use boosters until a weight of 36kg (80 pounds) and a height of 145cm (4′ 9″) is reached.

The Importance of Proper Installation

It cannot be overstated that a child safety seat only performs as well as it was installed. The problem is that getting a safety seat installed is not child’s play. It requires carefully following two sets of instructions, the ones from the owner’s manual of your vehicle, the other the ones that come with the child safety seat itself.

Depending on the age of your vehicle and its seat configuration, you will either have a straightforward installation of the child safety seat, or you will be looking at threading the seatbelt through the chassis of the car seat.

Most modern cars, including crossovers, sports utility vehicles, and even pick-up trucks with a crew cab back seat, come with a set of anchoring points already installed that will correlate with snap over fastening straps riveted to the child safety seat’s body. Simply follow the instructions and the installed seat will have less than the 2.5cm, (one inch), of allowable slack in any direction. Some high end seats will have a strap riveted to the back of the headrest that corresponds to a high anchor point in the cargo area, or high within the back seat itself, that prevents any forward tilt of the entire safety seat. If your vehicle has this additional latch point, look for a child seat that can use it.

If you have an older vehicle, you are looking at threading the shoulder/lap belt through the seat itself. Most seats are so well designed that installing them in this fashion is straightforward, if still perhaps requiring a third hand to accomplish. Don’t forget the shoulder belt anchor to prevent tilting.

Using seat belts keeps automobile insurance premiums lower for everyone. If you need a quote for vehicle insurance in Calgary from one of the many companies we represent, don’t hesitate to contact us.