How did I survive my childhood and make it this far in life? That question has entered my head many times over the years and it popped up again as I was reading a newspaper on Sunday. An article on child car seats struck a chord with me because changes in legislation are continually being made in order to enhance safety, especially for vulnerable individuals such as seniors, people with physical or mental challenges, and children.
The newspaper story titled Call in Experts to Install Child Car Seats Properly got my adrenalin pumping because any parent with the ability to read instructions should be able to install a car seat. It’s not that complicated and if securing an infant’s car seat is so complicated that an expert has to be summoned, the design should be changed and its manufacturer should be given a swift kick in the rear.
The article states, “Recent changes in law from Transport Canada make things easier for you, by introducing stringent rules surrounding the buying, selling and use of child safety seats.” I am not sure stringent rules make anything easy, except moaning, groaning and complaining.
I knew that car seats had an expiry date which isn’t a bad idea if the unit was made 20 years ago. However, regulations for relatively new car seats seem a little ridiculous. The law prohibits the selling, sharing or advertising of a car seat that was manufactured before 2012. That means any car seat that is over 3.5 years old is unsafe – garbage, junk and just another consumer item that will help fill up landfills.
There are several reason for car seats’ 42-month best-before date and they all seem a little exaggerated to me. Seats can become safe due to the sun’s UV rays which can degrade plastic, cleaning compounds that can weaken restraining straps and buckles, and installation manuals and labels that can go missing or become unreadable. If ultra violent rays seriously degrade plastic in 3.5 years, why are not all the plastic parts in a modern vehicle unsafe after that time period? Furthermore, high-quality plastic can be manufactured that is able to withstand a huge amount of UV punishment, so why not use such a product in child car seats if sun stress is truly an issue?
There are government regulations in place to ensure products meet safety standards when they are shipped into Canada. If the Canadian Safety Association (CSA) was adequately doing its job, sub-standard child car seats would not be allowed to enter our country and a seat with a 3-1/2 year expiry date would be non-existent.
As it stands, our current law on car-seat expiry dates is simply a license for manufacturers to produce products with a short shelf life. Unfortunately, the price on these products is high when compared to their lifespan.
As for restraining straps that require cleaning, why should they be any different than seatbelts in a vehicle? I find a little warm water and mild soap works fine to clean seatbelts. Despite cleaning and being in the sun for countless hours, shoulder and waist straps last for decades in an environment that is often extremely hot and very cold.
Also, a vehicular accident will render an infant’s car seat unusable, even if a child is not in it at the time of the collision. While this rule is also excessive, it should remain in place since stress breaks from an accident may be difficult to detect. Also, car seats that have sustained damage in a collision will be more prone to catastrophic failure in a second collision.
I totally support logical measures that will improve child safety and that means tackling the root cause. I am against laws and legislation that allow infant car seats to be sold that have plastic that may be weakened by sunlight. The solution is to stop importing safety equipment for babies that cannot withstand UV radiation or everyday cleaning agents. From my experience, such products must also be able to withstand biting and chewing, saliva and acidic up-chucks and bowel movements that can blister human skin.
Learning that “Canada has some of the strictest laws on the books regarding car seats . . .” is of little comfort since a law does not make a product or person safe. Of itself, it is useless. It is putting a law into practice – making it usable and beneficial – that can result in actual change and safety enhancement.
Why is a guy writing about car seats, especially when his children are all adults? The answer is I hate to see bureaucracy step in where common sense should rule. The bottom line is there no amount of legislation that will prevent people from making hasty and foolish decisions. People need to see a benefit to following infant car seat rules that is balanced with affordability.
Car seats can save infants’ lives in a collision – there is no doubting that fact. They also need to be high quality that does not make them obsolete in less than five years. If parents are being held to higher safety standards, it’s also time our government holds the manufacturers of car seats to a higher standard, and that does not mean creating a child’s car seat with an air bag!
Air bags are another story and I had better not get started on that (because they really are not needed if seat belts are used correctly).