A new study is adding more weight to the argument that mandatory use of child booster seats should be equally enforced across Canada.

The study, presented Thursday at a Canadian Pediatric Society conference in Vancouver, looked at booster seat regulations and rates of vehicle collision-related injuries in children across different provinces.  

It found that Alberta, the only province in Canada that currently does not have legislation specific to car booster seats, had the highest motor vehicle-related fatality rates for children and adolescents in 2006, based on population. That rate was 7.82 fatalities per 100,000 people, but it decreased over the next six years to 4.18 in 2012.

Ontario had the lowest fatality rate of all provinces in 2006 at 3.52 per 100,000, which decreased to 2.27 in 2012.  

The hospitalization rate from injuries sustained in vehicle collisions for children aged 5 to 9 was highest in Saskatchewan between 2006 and 2012, at a rate of 78.21 per 100,000 people. The rate of injuries was once again lower in Ontario, at 30.72. The Canadian average was 40.37.

Liraz Fridman, the first author of the study and a PhD candidate at York University, said the varying rates of injuries and deaths can be attributed, in part, to a patchwork of booster seat regulations across the country

Although every province except Alberta regulates the use of child booster seats, the rules are applied differently. While some provinces may only have height and age requirements for booster seat users, other regulations also include the weight of the child. Educational and incentive programs also vary from province to province.

Like Alberta, the territorial governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut also do not have booster seat-specific legislation.

Fridman said the study findings highlight the importance of harmonizing child booster seat policies across Canada in order to reduce injuries to children and keep them safe.

“If a child isn’t put in a booster seat, the shoulder and lap belt often causes abdominal injuries when they get into a motor vehicle collision,” she told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview.

“Generally speaking, studies have shown over and over again that children who are restrained in booster seats are less likely to be hospitalized and die when they are involved in a motor vehicle collision.”

For years, advocacy groups such as Safe Kids Canada have been asking that the mandatory use of child booster seats be harmonized across the country.

Fridman said parents should also ensure that their child is using a proper seat for his or her size.  She said it’s important not to graduate a child from a forward-facing car seat too quickly and introduce booster seats based on the child’s weight and height, not necessarily age.

Once in booster seats, kids should keep using them for as long as possible, she said.

“At the end of the day we want to keep kids safe.”