Canada: No Regulations for Child Seats in Trucks, Trucks with Cabs and Sports Cars

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Transport Canada states: “Every year in Canada, about 10,000 children (from infancy to 12-years-of-age) are hurt or killed on the roads.  The best thing you can do to prevent this from happening, is to make sure your children are always buckled-up properly while in the car…”

Children’s Health and Safety Association has received numerous phone calls in the past few months from frustrated parents and grandparents who were unable to source ‘regulations’ for child seats in trucks and sports cars from Transport Canada. I did not understand what the problem was until I tried to obtain the information myself.

Motor vehicle collisions are the number one cause of death for children from
1 to 9 years of age.

4 out of 5 car seats inspected in clinics across Canada are NOT properly installed.

What I thought would be a short phone call with quick results turned out to be four weeks of unanswered voicemail and emails followed by diasporic, circular conversations that spawned greater ambiguity. I can just imagine how confused people must have felt when their questions were unanswered – especially with something as serious as car seat safety for their children and grandchildren.

By law, it is mandatory for drivers to ensure passengers under the age of 16 are properly secured in a vehicle. This law applies to everyone – including caregivers, babysitters and grandparents. 

‘This Is Not a New Issue’

Andre Brisebois, founder and President of Children’s Health and Safety Association stated that he has inquired about car seat and air bag regulations for trucks and sports cars for over 20 years.  This is not a new issue. 

Air bags inflate instantaneously after a crash, bursting from the dashboard and side door panel at extreme pressures.   This impact can injure and even kill a child who is positioned too close to the air bags or is thrown toward the dashboard during emergency braking. 

And what about ‘used’ cars?  Who instructs the consumer at a ‘used car’ lot about proper restraint systems and seating positions?

When I posed this question to Andre Brisebois, he replied, “Are the sales staff at a car dealership responsible or obligated to instruct a potential buyer?” 

“They’re not safety officers; they’re salesmen.”

Canadians Choose Trucks over Cars

The 2014 Canadian International Auto Show states that Canadians continue to choose pick up trucks over cars as their personal vehicles.  DesRosiers Automotive reported that 1.743 million cars were sold in Canada in 2013, with new trucks and SUVs outselling cars – 969,361 trucks vs. 775,827 cars.

In an article titled ‘Big Trucks Give Canadian Auto Sales Record Torque’ published by the Financial Post, it was stated, “Mr. DesRosiers noted the large pickup market is the second-fastest growing segment in the country, behind only large, luxury SUVs, in recent years.

Ford Motor Company of Canada was Canada’s top selling automaker in 2013.  The Ford F-Series full size pickup has been the top selling vehicle in Canada and the United States for the past 43 years and the sales this year are so far ahead any other vehicle it will likely be the best selling vehicle overall in Canada.

I posed many questions, that I thought were quite important, to Michelle Lee Gracey, Corporate Communications Manager for Ford Motor Company of Canada – but they remained unanswered.  Instead, she suggested, “Many of your questions are best suited for Transport Canada.”

“What I can tell you is that all of Ford’s owner manuals provide detailed child safety information. Ford recommends all children age 12 and under should be properly restrained in the rear seat, whenever possible,” said Gracey.

Transport Canada

The Senior Advisor for Media Relations at Transport Canada contacted “Motor Vehicle Safety colleagues” to see if they have specific rules and recommendations for trucks, trucks with cabs and sports cars. They provided the following statements:

  • “Proper use of child car seats involves a combination of the seat, its installation in a car, and how the child is secured in the seat. 
  • Transport Canada regulates requirements for cars and pickup trucks in terms of lower and top tether anchorage points (locations, strength) and requirements for air bag suppression in the front passenger seat.  
  • Where and how child seats are installed in cars – and which car seats can be used for children of certain ages, heights and weights – falls under provincial regulatory jurisdiction.  Users should consult Transport Canada and provincial websites, the owner’s manual for the child car seat, and their vehicle owner’s manual.
  • The requirement in the federal Motor Vehicle Restraint Systems and Booster Seats Safety Regulations is that rear-facing child car seats must have a warning label stating they are not to be installed in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with a passenger-side front airbag.
  • There are also federal requirements for the manufacturer to instruct consumers as to what classes of vehicles their restraint systems can be used in (i.e. trucks, passenger vehicles, buses, etc), what types of seat belts are to be used (ALR, ELR, door mounted, etc.), and what seating positions are appropriate (i.e. vehicle seats that face forwards, sideways, rearwards, etc).
  • Trucks and sports cars with only one row of forward-facing vehicle seats must be equipped with at least one set of lower universal anchors and, with the exception of convertibles, must have a top tether anchorage.
  • For trucks with cabs (with a second row of seats), at least two locations for lower universal anchors, and three locations for top tethers are required.”

…but where are the Regulations?

While I was very thankful to receive a response to my query, it was inefficient, vague at best and completely void of ‘regulations’ that I could pass on to our readers.

Roxane Marchand, Media Relations Advisor at Transport Canada said, “Our experts are currently working on your request and I will get back to you as soon as possible ...” 

I received a second response from Marchand stating she would send me a link with the regulations.  I clicked the link hoping it would finally lead me to the regulations that I requested but to my dismay - it did not.  The link she provided led me to the front page of Transport Canada. Back to square one.

Transport Canada states there are federal requirements for the car manufacturer to instruct consumers as to the proper restraint system and appropriate seating position for each class of vehicle, however, how can there be federal requirements for car seat installations without regulations passed down to the consumer?  If a child is in a car seat that is improperly installed and positioned and that child is injured in a car accident who is culpable?  The driver - of course. 

I have been trying to source these regulations since last July and have come to the conclusion there are no ‘regulations’ for children’s car seats in trucks, trucks with cabs and sports cars but a little common sense and a few proactive measures can go a long way.   Until Transport Canada decides to make amendments to the car seat legislation, here’s what Children’s Health and Safety Association recommends:
  • Call your local John Ambulance for a referral to a certified ‘Child Passenger Safety Technician’ (CPST). St. John Ambulance provides a national Child Car Seat Safety Installation to the community by a group of trained and certified Car Seat Technician volunteers who will guide parents through the installation process. Please bring your vehicle manual, instruction booklet for your car seat and your child, so the technicians can provide a proper fitting.
  • When you are installing your child car seat, always follow the vehicle owner's manual and the child seat manufacturer's instructions.
  • If you must place your child in the front passenger seat of your truck or car, adjust the front passenger seat by sliding it as far back as possible creating a greater space between the back of your child’s seat and the dashboard.
  • NEVER place a child in a rear-facing seat in the front passenger position of a car with a front and side door panel active air bag. Ensure the airbags have been deactivated.
  • If the air bags have an on-off switch, set it to the ‘off’ position. If you don't have airbag on-off switches and you need to put a child in the front seat on a regular basis, talk to your car dealership or reliable mechanic to get proper switches installed.

The Canadian Paediatric Society states that a correctly installed car seat can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% and the risk of serious injury by 67%.

  • Remember that children have weaker back, neck, and stomach muscles and because their heads are larger in relation to their bodies, it is much harder for them to maintain an upright position even in a minor collision at low speed. Children are more likely to come face to face with the direct force of the bag as it expands.
  • Make sure your child is properly buckled in, with the lap belt low and snug over the hips and the shoulder belt across the chest. Never place the shoulder belt behind the child or under the arm.
  • Check your child’s position frequently.

Statistics

The Child Safety Seat Coalition (CSSC) comprised of police, health departments and various community groups state that motor vehicle collisions are the number one cause of death for children from one to nine years of age and statistics show that 4 out of 5 car seats inspected in CSSC clinics across Canada, are NOT properly installed. The Public Health Agency of Canada states in their “Injury in Review” (2012 Edition) that:
  • Despite the contribution of proven road and vehicle safety legislation and programs in recent decades, Motor Vehicle Traffic Collisions are the leading cause of injury death for children from one to four years of age.
  • Through the National Occupant Restraint Program (NORP), the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators says, “During a collision, improperly fitted restraints can cause serious injury.  A study of Canadian child passengers showed the risk of injury to inappropriately restrained children to be nearly twice as high as appropriately restrained children.  Seat belt injuries to children are often characterized by abdominal or thoracolumbar spine injuries
  • Front passenger air bags can cause death or severely harm children. Child safety advocates strongly recommend that children under 13 years of age ride in the back seat because they are more vulnerable to severe injury than adults (and the overall risk of injury is lower in the back seat for all occupants, including adults).  An important exception to these recommendations is compact extended cab pick-up trucks, where children are safer in the front rather than the second row.

An important exception to these recommendations is compact extended cab pick-up trucks, where children are safer in the front rather than the second row.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Injury in Review
2012 Edition

Children’s Health and Safety Association has helped hundreds of thousands of parents with their emergent questions and

difficult situations.  It was my intention to add these regulations to our ‘Car Seat Safety’ document so that parents would have the information they needed.  Instead, I am writing this article and maybe that’s a good thing. I now understand the lack of clarity, the angst, and the exasperation people experienced in trying to find the regulations they required to protect their children and grandchildren.

Written by Veronika Bradley, Editor for Children’s Health & Safety Association – September 14, 2014 and Republished by Diligencia Investigative Reporting – April 2019

Resources

For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following articles:

Car Seat Safety  - Children’s Health and Safety Association

Transport Canada – Car Seats and Booster Seats

Ministry of Transportation – Ontario – Safe and Secure: Choosing the Right Car Seat for Your Child

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For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following articles:

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1 COMMENT

  1. Magnificent post and very informative. How is it the automotive industry and the transportation department don’t understand your query? I am confident that you will have a ‘great reader base’ very soon.

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