Volvo integrated booster seat in a 2008 XC70 in upper position. Click image to enlarge
By Jim Kerr
Vehicle safety systems such as antilock brakes, stability control and dual stage airbags help protect vehicle occupants, but there are many vehicle passengers that require special attention. They are our children, and it is our responsibility to help protect them. Federal legislation regulates the quality of baby seats and child car seats, while provincial regulations specify how they are to be used. For example, baby seats are rearward facing and designed for infants weighing less than 9 kg, although this is changing.
Nova Scotia has already upgraded their regulations and B.C. will follow July 1, 2008. Their new regulations require a rear facing infant seat for an infant who is less than one year old or a child of any age who weighs less that 10 kg. The rear-facing child-seat must not be secured in a passenger seat that has an active frontal airbag.
Children between 9 kg and 18 kg are to be secured in an approved child seat. This seat can face forward but the safest place to install it is in the back seat, away from air bags that are designed to protect larger passengers. With the increased buying power of the Canadian dollar, some shoppers are purchasing child seats from other countries. These seats have not been certified for Canadian Standards and are illegal to import and use in Canada. An old motorcycle proverb says that if you have a $10 head, then you can buy a $10 helmet. The lesson here is to buy the best protection you can afford. The same goes for child seat protection.
After a child is over 18 kilograms, many parents move their children out of child seats and directly into seat belts. This can be a big mistake. Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, when she served as Ontario Children and Youth Services Minister, said “It’s a sad fact that children using seat belts instead of booster seats are 3.5 times more likely to suffer significant injury, and four times more likely to suffer head injury.” Seat belts are designed for protecting adults, and do not fit properly on a smaller child, even if they are over 18 kg. Several Provinces have or will be implementing regulations requiring booster seats for children over 18 kg who are less than 9 years old or less than 145 cm tall. A study conducted by AUTO21 for Transport Canada and released June 4, 2007 found that only 28 per cent of children between the ages of 4 and 8 are properly secured in booster or child seats when traveling in a vehicle. The study also calculated that “this age group experiences about 10 times more deaths and injuries during car crashes than babies and toddlers.”
Volvo Car Corporation has spent more than 40 years studying child safety and its own research has shown children require special equipment for effective collision protection. For this reason, Volvo introduced the first accessory car booster seat in 1978. I have used this seat in many cars to protect my children, and they liked it. They are able to better see out the side windows and the shoulder belts fit across their body instead of chaffing against their neck. Without a booster seat, abdomen injuries are predominant because the lap belts ride up from the hips.
Volvo integrated booster seat in a 2008 XC70 collapsed flush with rear bench (top), and Volvo integrated booster seat in a 2008 XC70 in lower position. Click image to enlarge
In 1990, Volvo introduced the integrated booster cushion for centre rear seat occupants. This booster cushion could be quickly flipped up to accommodate children or lowered for adults. In 1995, Volvo offered the feature for both outboard rear seat positions. Now, Volvo is taking the integrated booster seat one step further. The dual-stage integrated booster cushions will be available as optional equipment on the 2008 XC70 and in the V70 wagon launching in early 2008.
The rear seat had to be designed with comfort for both adults and children in mind. Multiple layers of foam with different densities allow for different body weights. With the booster seat lowered, the rear seat looks and feels like a normal Volvo rear seat. One hand operation allows a section of the seat to lift about 75 mm, providing a booster seat for larger children up to 12 years of age. Push a button on the front of the seat and it will raise about another 25 mm for shorter children. Volvo has designed the system for children aged 4 to 12.
This may seem like simple technology, but the convenience of it always being there means that it will be used more often and protect children better. Perhaps some day, all vehicles will incorporate seats that will adapt to the size of the passenger sitting in them. For now, Volvo has taken the lead in child safety.