Writing about food, family, and cars
My daughter, Emily, testing daddy’s handiwork.
In every vehicle I drive and review on Autos.ca, one of the aspects I test and make note of is the ease of installation of my daughter’s car seat. I make no secret of what a pain child-seat installation can be (low roofs, low back-of-seat tether anchors), and having to move the child seat from car to car every week may fall under the category of #firstworldproblems (look it up on twitter if you’re up for a good laugh), so it’s a problem I’m glad to have, but it annoys me nonetheless. However, it doesn’t change the very real concern I’ve had for some time that I was potentially doing something wrong on any given week depending on the car, or doing something wrong every week because I just didn’t understand the admittedly painful instruction manual.
Well, there’s a cure for people like me, and for this summer, it is free if you live in the GTA. General Motors is sponsoring a series of free child-seat installation clinics by Baby Car Seat Experts and Wee Welcome, held at various GM dealerships around the GTA. The clinics are open to owners of all makes and models, not just GMs. Wee Welcome is a popular parenting site, and Baby Car Seat Experts Inc. is a service that will come to your doorstep, inspect your installation, correct any errors you might have made in the installation, and train you on how to correctly install your child or children’s car seats, from rear-facing infant seats to convertibles or forward-facing toddler seats. This type of event is old hat for them as they also provide clinics for GTA car dealerships who
want to organize community events to give their customers the critical knowledge necessary to keep their most precious cargo safe.
Lio Perron, founder of Baby Car Seat Experts.
I spoke with Lio Perron, the founder of Baby Car Seat Experts, who established the company as a business, but with an equal aim to educate and train parents on seat installation. It was a two-fold solution to a busy family life with two young children and maintaining a two-income household with a viable business plan: “It’s not a glamourous business, but it gives me flexibility, something I never had before. Busy parents with tight schedules appreciate the safety and convenience our technicians deliver at their doorstep, at a time of their choosing.”
All his technicians are trained and certified by St. John Ambulance in proper car-seat installation, some with thousands of installations under their belt, and there is a constant need for this service. Field studies have shown that over 70 percent (namely a widely cited NHTSA study from 2004) of child seats are installed incorrectly, although many estimates are higher, including Lio’s, who estimates, based on his firsthand field experience, that it seems as high as 90.
For example, while my toddler’s forward-facing seat was installed correctly (woohoo!), the base of my daughter’s old rear-facing infant seat was not (I re-installed it as a test of my own skills — fail!). However, as mentioned above, I often switch vehicles from week to week, and there is no doubt in my mind that due to various seat options and angles, I have installed her current seat incorrectly at various times.
The key, in general, is to have the base of a toddler’s spine at 45 degrees relative to the ground, so that the five-point harness can absorb the weight evenly in the event of a collision. One risk from a seat that is too far reclined is having the child sliding down the seat and primarily into the lower centre strap and risking any male children’s reproductive health (Dads always cringe at that risk). One neat trick they showed me to check the correct angle (seat markings can be iffy at best) is to fold a bill on an angle and hold the folded edge against the lower seatback. The top of the bill should be parallel to the roof of the vehicle.
Derek of Baby Car Seat Experts has a look at the author’s questionable car seat installation.
Anyhow, Derek, one of Baby Car Seat Experts St. John Ambulance–trained installation experts, explained what I had done wrong, showed me a feature of the infant car-seat base that I was not using correctly and showed me how using it correctly would enable a more secure fit with the vehicle I’m driving, the long-term Mazda5 we have on fleet with Autos.ca.
However, he cautioned that not all child-seat manuals are accurate because they are often translated from other markets whose safety requirements may not be as stringent as ours. He cited one example, where the manual instructs that the infant seat handle be kept in the upright position, but crash tests have shown that the handle fragments during side impacts and is liable to become a dangerous projectile, whereas a lowered handle would keep its path away from that most precious cargo. Not two minutes later, a parent with said model arrived with manual in hand and received the necessary training to avoid that risk.
There are a wide variety of mistakes that are easy to make, and research shows that injuries related to motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of injury-related death for Canadian children (for references, see this well-documented article). Anyone not yet convinced of the necessity of child safety seats in cars should be reminded that car seats can reduce the risk of injury by over 70 percent. There are a wide variety of resources available to assist parents with the selection and installation on child car seats online and through federal, provincial and municipal governments and parenting sites and organizations.
If you wish to attend one of the GM-sponsored clinics in the GTA, see schedule below, and visit WeeWelcome.ca in order to register as they will not take walk-ins on the days of the event — they have to schedule experts for each session.
If you live outside the GTA, jump past the schedule and see a list of child car-seat installation services and clinics in various provinces that can inspect and train you on proper installation of your child’s car seat in your car.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Wilson-Niblett Motors, 10675 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Gateway Chevrolet, 2 Gateway Blvd., Brampton
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Humberview Buick GMC, 1650 The Queensway, Toronto
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Roy Foss Chevrolet, 2 Auto Park Circle, Woodbridge
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Markville Chevrolet, 5336 Highway #7, Markham
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Humberview Motors, 3200 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Leggat Chevrolet Buick GMC, 360 Rexdale Boulevard, Rexdale
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Dean Myers Chevrolet, 3180 Dufferin Street, Toronto
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Eastside Chevrolet Buick GMC, 8435 Woodbine Ave., Markham
Saturday, September 08, 2012
Frost Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac, 320 Queen Street East, Brampton
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Old Mill Cadillac Chevrolet Buick GMC, 2595 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Courtesy Chevrolet, 1635 The Queensway, Toronto
Saturday, October 13, 2012
City Buick Chevrolet Cadillac GMC, 900 Victoria Park Avenue, Toronto
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Addison On Erin Mills, 6600 Turner Valley Road, Mississauga
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Budds’ Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC, 410 South Service Rd W, Oakville
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Roy Foss Chevrolet, 2 Auto Park Circle, Woodbridge
National Child Seat Installation Services and Clinics
St. John Ambulance
St. John’s Ambulance
GTA and Central Ontario