Child Restraint Use in Canada: 1997 Survey Data

TP 2436
Road Safety Leaflet # CL 9804 E
1998

Transport Canada periodically conducts observational surveys to determine the use of child restraints. Children are observed in vehicles stopped at traffic lights and stop signs during daylight hours to determine the type of restraints used for children under 16 years of age.

The fifth national survey of child restraint use was conducted during the week of July 25 to July 31, 1997 at 206 sites across Canada. The data in this leaflet are based on 22,037 observations of children under 16. Except for Table 4 which shows proper use of appropriate restraints, the data presented in the leaflet is weighted according to community population and provincial population.



Types of Restraint Used

Table 1 presents the use and non-use of restraints for each of the various age groups in the survey. The results show that 87.1% of the children observed used seat belts or child restraints, while the remainder were unrestrained. Restraint usage was lowest for the 5-9 year olds (84.6%) and highest for the age group under 1 year (95.7%).

Table 1

 Type of Restraint by Age Group in Percent from 1997 Survey
Restraint type used Age Group
Under 1 1 - 2 3 - 4 1 - 4* 5 - 9 10 - 15 Total
Infant Carrier 69.9 6.1 0.2 2.6 0.0 0.1 4.1
Child Seat 25.3 81.1 39.9 56.7 1.3 0.0 15.6
Booster Seat 0.2 3.2 17.2 11.5 4.5 0.1 4.7
Seat Belt 0.3 4.4 30.9 20.1 78.9 85.7 62.7
Total Restrained 95.7 94.8 88.2 90.9 84.6 85.9 87.1
Total Unrestrained 4.3 5.2 11.8 9.1 15.4 14.1 12.9

*This age group is included so that comparison with 1989 survey results is possible.



Illustrations of Different Styles of Restraints

Booster Seats or Cushions

Low back with shield
Low back with shield
Low back with no shield
Low back with no shield
High back soft foam
High back soft foam
High back hard shell
High back hard shell

Convertible Child Restraints

5-point harness
5-point harness
Shield (arm)
Shield (arm)
T-shield
T-shield

Infant restraints

Infant restraint - with base
Infant restraint - with base
Infant restraint - no base
Infant restraint - no base


Proper Restraint Use by Province and Age

The survey results presented in Table 2 show the percentages of children in restraints appropriate to their ages, i.e., under 1 year - infant carrier or child seat; 1-2 years - infant carrier or child seat; 3-4 years - child seat; booster seat or seat belt; 5-9 years - booster seat or seat belt; 10-15 years - seat belt.

Across Canada, 85.6% of children surveyed were using appropriate types of restraints. The youngest age group (under 1 year) turned in the highest percentage (95.3%) and the 5-9 year olds the lowest (83.4%). For all age groups combined, the provincial totals ranged from 82.1% in Newfoundland to 90.2% in Nova Scotia.

Table 2

 Proper Restraint Use by Province and Age in Percent from 1997 Survey
Age B.C Alta. Sask. Man. Ont. Que. N.B N.S P.E.I. Nfld. Canada
Under 1 year 96.0 95.8 94.6 89.2 94.6 96.8 89.2 94.6 100.0 96.8 95.3
1-2 years 88.2 82.0 73.4 89.3 88.8 86.9 89.3 86.5 84.0 81.1 87.2
3-4 years 86.0 86.6 81.4 85.0 85.7 94.0 85.0 92.4 90.4 84.6 88.0
1-4 years 87.0 84.9 78.3 86.5 87.0 91.1 90.2 90.0 87.9 83.0 87.6
Under 5 years 88.3 87.2 81.0 86.9 88.2 92.2 86.9 90.7 90.0 84.6 88.9
5-9 years 84.2 79.0 86.3 83.2 81.9 85.5 83.2 92.7 83.5 81.8 83.4
10-15 years 85.2 84.1 86.0 88.2 84.4 88.3 88.2 86.0 86.0 80.3 85.7
Under 16 years 85.7 82.7 84.4 85.6 84.3 88.3 85.6 90.2 85.5 82.1 85.6


Proper Use of Appropriate Restraints

Table 3 shows proper use of appropriate restraints for children under 16. Proper use is determined according to the criteria for each of the restraint types. An infant carrier is considered to be properly used only if the harness is in use, the vehicle belt is used to restrain the carrier to the vehicle (for infant-only seats) and the carrier is installed facing the rear of the vehicle. A child seat is considered to be properly used only if the harness is in use, the child seat is secured with the vehicle seat belt and tether strap is used. A booster seat is considered to be properly used if the vehicle seat belt is used to secure the seat. If a 3-4 year old child is secured by a vehicle seat belt, then he/she is considered to be properly secured. If any one of the required criteria is not observed, it is excluded from the data analysis. The estimated proper use for children under 5 years of age was 76.1% in 1997, an increase of 18% from 1989.

Table 3

 Proper Use of Appropriate Restraints by Province and Age 
in Percent from 1997 Survey
Age B.C Alta. Sask. Man. Ont. Que. N.B N.S P.E.I. Nfld. Canada
Under 1 year 66.8 65.2 75.1 64.7 73.0 74.7 35.2 81.0 80.0 83.2 71.4
1-2 years 67.1 66.6 80.3 70.9 65.6 66.5 41.3 69.5 65.0 82.3 65.9
3-4 years 87.6 84.6 94.8 91.7 75.8 89.3 87.8 93.3 96.8 98.0 84.1
1-4 years 78.7 78.3 89.9 84.8 71.9 80.0 67.6 85.3 87.4 92.0 77.2
Under 5 years 76.8 75.2 87.2 81.5 72.1 79.6 64.3 84.5 86.1 90.8 76.1
5-9 years 100.0 99.9 99.8 99.5 99.7 99.8 100.0 100.0 99.8 100.0 99.8
10-15 years 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
All cases 94.0 93.4 96.2 95.0 92.0 94.1 86.3 96.2 97.4 97.9 93.3


Infant Carriers and Child Seats

Table 4 provides the percentage of correct and incorrect use of infant and child restraints. In 70.1% of the cases, the infant carriers were correctly used in all respects. However, in 25% of the cases, the infant carriers were incorrectly installed in a forward-facing position in the vehicle.

In 66.5% of the cases, the child seats were correctly used. The most common error (32.8% of the cases) was the failure to install the tether strap which is required in order to limit the forward movement of the seat in a collision.

Table 4

 Proper Use of Appropriate Restraints

Infant Carrier

Number Percent

Correctly used (seat belt, harness and carrier backward facing)

549 70.1

No harness fastened (seat belt used and carrier backward facing)

27 3.4

No seat belt used (harness used and carrier backward facing)

5 0.6

Carrier forward facing (seat belt used and harness used)

180 23.0

Carrier forward facing and no harness used (seat belt only used)

11 1.4

Carrier forward facing and no seat belt used (harness only used)

5 0.6

No seat belt and no harness used ( carrier only installed forward facing)

3 0.4

No harness, no seat belt and no backward facing carrier

3 0.4

Total

783 100.0
     

Child Seat

Number Percent

Correctly used (seat belt, harness and tether used)

1054 66.5

No harness fastened (seat belt used and tether used)

26 1.6

No seat belt used (tether used and harness used)

5 0.3

No tether used (harness used and seat belt used)

434 27.4

No tether and no harness used (seat belt only used)

3 1.9

No tether and no seat belt used (harness only used)

55 3.5

No seat belt and no harness used (tether only used)

2 0.1

No tether, no harness and no seat belt used

7 0.4

Total

1586 100.0


Overall Proper Use

Table 5 shows the estimated overall proper use of child restraints, taking into account both correct installation and harness use. The overall proper use of child restraints increased from 40.8% in 1989 to 67.7% in 1997. Table 5 also shows that the overall proper use for children under 16 years of age was 79.9%, an increase of 28.9% from the 51.0% recorded in 1989.

Table 5

 Overall Proper Use by Province and Age In Percent from 1997 Survey

Age

B.C. Alta. Sask. Man. Ont. Que. N.B N.S P.E.I. Nfld. Canada

Under 1 year

64.1 62.5 71.0 57.7 69.1 72.3 31.4 76.6 80.0 80.5 68.0

1-2 years

59.2 54.6 58.9 63.3 58.3 57.8 36.9 60.0 54.6 66.7 57.5

3-4 years

75.3 73.3 77.2 77.9 65.0 83.9 74.6 86.2 87.5 82.9 74.0

1-4 years

68.5 66.5 70.4 73.4 62.6 72.9 61 76.8 76.8 76.4 67.6

Under 5 years

67.4 65.6 70.6 70.8 63.6 73.4 55.9 76.6 77.5 76.8 67.7

5-9 years

84.2 78.2 86.1 82.8 81.7 85.3 83.2 92.7 83.3 81.8 88.7

10-15 years

85.2 84.1 86.0 88.2 84.4 88.3 88.2 86.0 86.0 80.3 85.7

All cases

80.6 77.2 81.2 81.3 77.6 83.1 73.9 86.8 83.3 80.4 79.9