Here we've answered some of the most frequently answered questions to your SaskSeats CPST team from Saskatchewan parents, caregivers, and individuals like yourself. If you see something you think should be added, or have found a potential error, please feel free to get in touch with us and we can look at any additions/revisions :)
Let's be honest, child restraints are tricky. As a new parent, or one moving up and onto the next stage, this can be a very tough decision that often brings about some uncertainty. To make this go as smoothly as possible, we recommend first taking a look at: https://vicarseattechs.com/our-favourites-summarized/. These lists have been developed by CPSAC techs with years of experience in the world of child passenger safety. Once you have narrowed down your options, you are best to "try before you buy" or meet up with a tech (whenever possible). Trying out the seat from a store, or asking on a local buy & sell page to see if a parent has one that you could borrow briefly will allow you to judge the fit in your vehicle. Make sure to try the seat both rear-facing and forward facing and look for things like:
We see this a lot on forums and Facebook groups. A parent or caregiver will explain their situation, what they are looking for, and tell us that they want it to be the "safest" seat within their budget. I am sure we will ease some nerves when we say that in Canada, all child restraints pass the same federal crash testing and meet the same safety standards. It is a pass/fail system and one seat isn't deemed to be safer than another. It either passes the requirements or it doesn't, and then cannot be legally sold. The primary reason that seats range in price is because the lower-cost seats do not have the features that the higher priced seats do.
The safest seat is one that fits your child, your vehicle, your budget, and will be used correctly 100% of the time.
Child restraints have a useful life on them before they expire and it is something that we need to make sure we are following. This is a device that is designed with the purpose of keeping children safe in the event of a collision. Drinking some expired milk might make you sick, using an expired child restraint could be the difference between life and death. Transport Canada has a great piece on why child restraints expire that you can read about here. When it comes to used child restraints, there are a lot of 'unknowns' that we are going out and trusting hasn't happened to the seat. Has it been in a collision? We don't know for sure. Have the straps been washed or come in contact with harsh chemicals? We don't know for sure. Has it been mistreated in ways that could compromise the working parts of the seat? We don't know this either. Many times they aren't issues that are able to be pointed out just by looking at the seat either. We don't often recommend purchasing used seats, but we do understand that it may not be possible for every parent to purchase new all of the time. In this case, we recommend you take a look at the Used Seat Checklist developed by the CPSAC. It is a handy tool in determining whether or not the seat you are looking at is one you should be purchasing.
The short answer is that in most cases, no, you cannot use both the seat belt and UAS (latch clips) to secure a child restraint in the vehicle. Manufacturers that do allow both, will specify this in the manual that comes with the seat upon purchasing it and will outline "how" these features work.
When used properly and within their limits, both a seat belt installation and UAS installation are safe. You want to be able to achieve less than 1" of movement side-to-side and front-to-back and sometimes that is only possible with one or the other depending on the child restraint and vehicle combination.
The chest clip, also called a harness retainer clip, is not a "solo-safety device" in that it will not stop your child from being ejected from their seat if it is the only thing being buckled up. The 5 points to a child restraint harness (see this picture here) are the points of contact your child's harness makes with the seat and their body. The chest clip isn't one of these "points". One point is at each shoulder, one point at each hip, and the final converges at their crotch buckle. The whole purpose of a 5-point harness is that it is positioned over the strongest parts of their body so that when properly tightened, it can contain them in their seat during a crash. The chest clip was designed as a pre-crash positioner that keeps this harness properly situated over your child's shoulders before a collision takes place. Those shoulder straps aren't going to do much good if they are falling off their shoulders and thus not positioned properly up their torso. We want it to be placed at the child's armpits, not over top of their tummy, not snugged up against their neck so it is obstructing proper breathing, at armpit level.
You are permitted to do a baseless installation as long as your car seat allows it and you can achieve a proper installation doing so. You want it to be at the proper recline with less than 1" of movement just like with the base installed. Please consult your child restraint manual for instructions on achieving a safe baseless installation.
In Canada, it is a requirement that the top tether be attached to an approved anchor point for all forward-facing harnessed child restraints. Not all seating positions in your vehicle with have an approved tether anchor located behind them. In these cases (like in the third row of Grand Caravans that only have the 1 offset anchor), you would not be able to install a forward-facing car seat in that position.
When rear facing, there are two methods of tethering the child restraint and only one applies in Canada. The first is Swedish style which tethers the top of the child restraint to the floor directly below it. We don't do this in Canada (yes some manuals will tell you to do this - ignore it). Both the vehicle and the child restraint have to agree on this and no vehicle manufacturer in Canada presently permits tethering this way. The second method is known as Australian style tethering where we go back along the sides of the child restraint and attach it to the tether we would normally use if it was forward-facing. See this picture here for an example. Please check your child restraint manual, contact the manufacturer, or get in touch with our team for clarification on this often tricky subject if you need some help.
Our child restraint manual will provide us with this information but it might also be located on the side of the seat. For a rear-facing child restraint, we generally want to make sure that we have not met the height, weight requirements, and other fit requirements (like the straps no longer coming out at or below their shoulders). If any of those conditions are not being met, then the child cannot safely use that seat anymore. For a forward-facing harnessed seat, we also want to be checking the height and weight requirements but this time making sure that, in most cases, the tops of their ears are contained within the shell of the seat - specifics will be outlined in the manual. The shoulder straps need to be coming out at or above their shoulders as well. If they are coming out below the shoulders and they cannot be moved up any further, then the seat has been outgrown and it is time for a new one. Finally, booster seats can also be outgrown. Most of the time by weight, but sometimes by height as well (think high-back boosters and the belt guide being too low and not allowing a proper fit anymore). Check the manual that came with your child's seat to determine what each of the given limits are for its proper use.
The process for cleaning your child restraint, including what is approved and what is not, will be outlined in your manual and vary between each particular company. If you are unsure, SaskSeats recommends contacting the manufacturer for clarification. As an example, they generally don't permit the use of harsh chemicals or soaking/submerging the straps in water.
Every retailer sold harnessed seat in Canada must be certified for use on an airplane. SaskSeats recommends purchasing that extra seat for your child whenever possible and using their car seat on the airplane to keep them safe. If severe in-flight turbulence were to happen, they are going to be thrown around that cabin pretty violently if they aren't secured in a properly fitting car seat. We may think we can just hold them on our laps and keep them there, even through in-flight turbulence, but this article demonstrates why that just isn't the case.
You can read more from our "Airplane Safety" page in the Learning Lounge.
You'd be surprised to know that the only "professionals" when it comes to your specific seat are those who designed, built, and tested that seat. It's why the manual that comes with your seat is so comprehensive and a crucial tool in your understanding of how that seat operates and should be used/installed. You won't hear the techs working with SaskSeats referring to themselves as "professionals" or "car seat installers", because we aren't. We are parents, caregivers, coworkers, friends, and individuals just like you. The only difference between us is that we have taken an extensive course developed to help us help you. This work is done to educate about and teach you how to properly use and install your child restraint. We don't just install it for you and call it a day. If you are not confident in being able to use that child restraint, then it does you no good the second we leave our appointment. Our focus is, and always will be, the educating of parents, caregivers, and alike on child passenger safety. This is how we meet our mission to protect what matters most.
To get in touch with one of our technicians and book a private installation check, you can use the link in the navigation menu above or contact our team directly.
A large issue with technology today is that it is very easy to hear or see something and immediately believe it to be true. Your aunty saw a post on Facebook that said "Laws are changing: child must be 2-years old to forward face", but didn't read the article to see where this law was coming in to effect. You see that post and now assume that your 20-month-old is forward-facing illegally. But this doesn't apply in Saskatchewan (yet), so the information you are reading and believing is untrue and could be unsafe for your given situation.
This is also a big issue when it comes to "memes" or graphics being shared online because the content being shared may not apply in your country/province or to your seat/child. That information could also be created by someone without accurate knowledge, it could be outdated, or it could be information that does not apply to your specific seat. For this reason, SaskSeats tries to develop as many of their own graphics as we can. That way, you can have some confidence in the infographics we are sharing to you as one of our Saskatchewan families online and at our checks/clinics.
So if someone tells you something and does not have credible links/evidence to back it up, get in touch with us for some clarity. If we don't have the answer (which does happen more than you might think - again, we aren't professionals), we can be that liaison to the manufacturer and can work with you to find the answer you're looking for.