Researchers renew call for booster-seat legislation in Alberta, the lone provincial holdout
Kids of a certain size are required by law to use booster seats in every other province
Nine out of 10 provinces have made booster seats in cars mandatory for children of a certain size, and Kathy Belton hopes new data will finally convince Alberta to do the same.
Belton is associate director of the Injury Prevention Centre at the University of Alberta and has spent 15 years asking the provincial government for legislation on booster seats — so far, without success.
"It has been a struggle and I have no idea why," she said.
She hopes data highlighted this week might change some minds, however.
"Provinces that have not enacted booster seat legislation have the highest rate of childhood motor-vehicle related fatalities compared to the Canadian average," reads the conclusion of a paper presented Thursday at a Canadian Pediatric Society conference in Vancouver.
Researcher Liraz Fridman said the data — which is available up until the year 2012 — shows particularly high rates in Alberta as well as in Saskatchewan, which introduced booster-seat legislation in 2014.
'We just wanted to encourage Alberta'
"We by no means want to vilify any province specifically, but ... the way we see it is that we know that evidence-informed policy is one way to reduce the amount of childhood injury related to both hospitalizations and deaths," Fridman said.
"And so we just wanted to encourage Alberta, so that we can harmonize this very important legislation for injury prevention across Canada."
Belton said booster seats help children sit in vehicles so that seatbelts are correctly positioned over their hips and chest, reducing the risk of "seat belt syndrome" injuries in the event of a crash.
The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends children who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds use booster seats until they reach four feet, nine inches in height or 9 years of age.
Kids 'graduate' too soon to seatbelts
"Although all provinces and territories have laws requiring the use of restraint systems for children up to about four years old, children aged four to eight years often 'graduate' prematurely to using seat belts, increasing their risk of injury, disability and death," the society says on its website.
"In a collision, children using seat belts instead of booster seats are 3.5 times more likely to suffer a serious injury and four times more likely to suffer a head injury."
In an email, a spokesperson with Alberta Transportation said kids' safety on roads and highways is something the government "takes seriously" and it is "constantly reviewing" legislation but has no immediate plans to change the law surrounding booster seats.
"Our focus at this time is to promote the use of booster seats through education and awareness initiatives," the email said.
With files from Kate Adach