Half of Quebec's child car seats are improperly used, SAAQ warns

Vehicle accidents where a child under the age of 15 was injured are on the rise in Quebec, and one way to prevent those injuries is to ensure that car seats are properly installed and children are properly fastened.

Free car seat clinic this weekend, verification services are ways parents can make sure kids are safe

The SAAQ says 60 per cent of children's car seats are not properly installed. (Maria Sbytova/Shutterstock)

About half of all car seats in the province are being used improperly, either because the seat or the child isn't strapped in right, according to Quebec's automobile insurance board.

Mario Vaillancourt, an SAAQ spokesperson, said that a proper car seat setup can reduce risk of injury by 70 per cent.

"It's important to be well prepared," he said in an interview with CBC.

The advice comes as some boroughs and organizations start to publicize their car seat verification services, just in time for spring.

Vehicle accidents where a child under the age of 15 was injured have been on the rise in Quebec since 2012, according to the latest numbers from the SAAQ.

A total of 1,711 young passengers suffered injuries resulting from a road accident in 2016. That is up from 1,588 in 2012, an increase of just under eight per cent.

The increase goes against the general trend in Quebec, which saw instances of more serious and even fatal accidents decline across the board during the same period.

Parents take note

Vaillancourt said when a harness is on right, the straps should be no more than a finger's width from the collarbone.

Angela Polyzogopoulos, a certified car seat technician by the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada, said another common problem is parents moving on to the next phase of car seats too early.

"A lot of the times, people move their kids on too soon," she said, adding that a lot comes down to the weight and size of the child, rather than their age.

In Quebec, children are required to ride in a car or booster seat until their seated height is at least 25 inches.

Polyzogopoulos, who is also the co-founder of the West Island-based company Kids en Route, told CBC that the regulations have become stricter in Canada over the past few decades.

Mario Vaillancourt is a spokesperson for the SAAQ. (CBC)

"We were just using seatbelts when I was growing up," she said.

One of the services offered at Kids en Route is private consultations on car seat safety. Based on her own experience, Polyzogopoulos said she believes the number of improperly installed car seats is significantly higher than the SAAQ estimates.

"I would say it's even more, closer to 90 per cent," she said. "There could be a lot of improvement."

Better safe than sorry

For one thing, Polyzogopoulos said, parents need to read the manual for a car seat or consult an expert.

Along with companies like Kids en Route, there are also a number of locations across Montreal that provide free car seat consultations. CAA-Québec offers a complete list by area, here.

According to Polyzogopoulos, parents should spend money on a new car seat instead of taking chances with secondhand or expired ones.

"You don't know if it's been dropped, or been in an accident," she said, adding it could also have been washed with bleach, which could weaken key components of the seat.

Outremont public security, in conjunction with the Sainte-Justine hospital, is holding a free car seat clinic this Sunday, May 28.

The clinic, which is open to all, will take place at at 500 Dollard Avenue, corner of Bernard and run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.