Prabakara Rajaratanum didn’t mind being stopped by Toronto Police officers near Kingston Rd. and St. Clair Ave. on August 27.
As part of a proactive approach to ensure that children are safely and securely fastened in a motor vehicle, Traffic Services conducted a two-hour mid-morning child car seat spot check in partnership with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and Child Safety Passenger Association of Canada (CSPAC).
“It’s a good learning experience for me,” said Rajaratanum, whose wife and 14-month old child were in the car. “The car seat is a bit challenging to put in place, but it’s good to know there is a proper way to install it so that children like mine are very safe.”
His vehicle was the second that failed the ‘Quick Five-Step Check’ and required a detailed inspection during the blitz. Of the 39 vehicles stopped during the clinic that resembled an impaired driving spot check, 30 had seats installed improperly.
The first vehicle driver had her two-year-old daughter in the backseat.
“I switched cars this morning with my sister and didn’t check to see if the seat was properly installed,” she said. “These seats are difficult to put in and I am glad I got a crash course this morning on how it should be properly done.”
Vehicles failing the intial spot check were directed into the nearby Canadian Tire parking lot where the inspection bays were set up.
MTO inspector Melissa Brabant and Celia Ambeault of CSPAC inspected this vehicle with the two-year-old in the back seat.
“The harness strap is twisted and the base for the seat is loose,” said Brabant.
Traffic Services Sgt. Brett Moore says parents embraced the car seat clinic despite being inconvenienced by being stopped.
“We know that these parents would do anything for their kids. We know that the driver is not putting their child in harms way intentionally,” Moore says. “This is almost always the case of a parent not knowing the safety issues and we are really happy to be able to offer this type of service.”
Moore admits that car seat installations for children aren’t easy.
“Even with all the new technology, it’s challenging and if you don’t break a sweat to put it in, you have not done so right,” said Moore, noting the proactive roadside spot check is a first for Traffic Services.
Motor vehicle collisions, according to Stats Canada (2011), were the number one cause of death due to unintentional injury in children aged one to 14. An analysis of child passengers sustaining severe motor vehicle crash-related injuries revealed that 92 per cent of infants, 74 per cent of toddlers and 96 per cent of school-aged children weren’t restrained appropriately at the time of the crash.
Traffic Services currently conduct monthly car seat inspections by appointment through their Auxiliary program.
“One of the things we want to ensure is that our Auxiliaries are involved in meaningful work that serves the needs of our community,” said Moore. “One of the areas is traffic that we know is lacking in both compliance and awareness when it comes to car seats. We ran a car seat clinic for a few hours several months ago and then opened it up to the public. People can sign up online for the clinic and based on the response so far, we know there is a need for something like this.”
Amanda Macdonald, who joined the Auxiliary program nearly two-and-half years ago, conducts the clinic, which guides parents through an installation.
“The best way to protect children from serious injury and even death in vehicle collisions is to ensure they are properly secured,” said Macdonald, who is a certified car seat technician and CSPAC instructor. “This spot check is also an opportunity for parents and guardians to know that a clinic exists where they can come and learn how to install car seats the right way.”
Drivers were pulled over under the Highway Traffic Act and given a warning ticket after the inspection.
“This is about public awareness and we want to send a strong message that safety is paramount, especially when it comes to kids,” said Moore.
Last year, Toronto Police issued 141 tickets to drivers failing to ensure infants and children were properly secured. In many cases, these are secondary offences observed after an initial vehicle stop.