Properly used child seats and booster seats can significantly reduce the chance of children being hurt and/or killed in collisions.
Car seat clinics indicate that many car seats are installed improperly. Common errors include not tightening the seatbelt and harness enough, and not properly using a tether strap when required.
Make sure your child is safe and secure, and is buckled up right. Children under 13 years of age are safest in the back seat away from all active air bags.
By law, drivers are responsible for ensuring passengers under 16 years of age are secured properly. It is mandatory for anyone transporting children to make sure they are properly secured in a child car seat, booster seat or seatbelt.
Newborn babies and infants require special protection while in a vehicle. In a collision, using properly installed rear-facing car seats can save your child's life.
Infant car seats should face the back of the vehicle, rest at a 45-degree angle and move no more than 2.5 cm (1 in.) where the seatbelt or Universal Anchorage System (UAS) strap is routed through the child car seat. If necessary, use a towel or a foam bar (pool noodle) under the base of the child car seat to adjust the angle. Harness straps should sit at or below a baby's shoulders. You should not be able to fit more than one finger underneath the harness straps at the child's collarbone. The chest clip should be flat against the chest at armpit level.
When the child outgrows the maximum height and weight of his/her infant seat, you may require a convertible rear-facing seat until your child is ready to be facing forward. The law requires using a rear-facing car seat until the baby is at least 9 kilograms (20 lb.)
The law is a minimum requirement. It’s best to keep your child rear-facing until they are at least one year old or until they have reached either the maximum height or weight limits of the rear-facing seat.
A child can start riding facing forward when he or she is at least 9 kg (20 lb.).
To prevent the car seat from moving forward and causing injury in a collision, it is important to use the tether strap exactly as the manufacturer recommends. If your vehicle does not have a tether anchor in place, contact a dealership to have one installed.
To install a forward-facing car seat, fasten the tether strap, then use your body weight to tighten and fasten the seatbelt or Universal Anchorage System (UAS) strap.
Ensure that the shoulder straps are at or above the child's shoulders. Straps should be snug, with only one finger width between the strap and the child's chest. Avoid using aftermarket car seat products. They can become projectiles or may have hard or sharp surfaces that can hurt the child in a collision.
The law requires booster seats for children who have outgrown a child car seat but are too small for a regular seat belt.
Booster seats are required for children under the age of eight, weighing 18 kg or more but less than 36 kg (40-80 lb.) and who stand less than 145 cm (4 feet-9 inches) tall.
A child can start using a seatbelt alone once any one of the following criteria is met:
Seatbelts are designed to protect adults. Booster seats raise the child up so that the adult seatbelt works more effectively. Booster seats protect against serious injury 3 ½ times better than seatbelts alone.
A lap and shoulder combination belt must be used with all booster seats. Your child's head must be supported by the top of the booster, vehicle seat or headrest. The shoulder strap must lie across the child's shoulder (not the neck or face) and middle of the chest, and the lap belt must cross low over the hips (not the stomach/abdomen). Never use seatbelt adjusters.
Seatbelts are designed for adults and older children. Once your child can sit all the way against the vehicle seat back with legs bent comfortably over the edge of the seat, and with the shoulder belt flat across the shoulder and chest, he or she is ready to move from the booster seat to the vehicle seatbelt.
Make sure the shoulder strap lies across the child's shoulder and the middle of the chest (not the neck or face), and the lap belt crosses over the hips (not the stomach).
Children under 13 years of age are safest in the back seat. Never put two children in the same seatbelt or place the shoulder strap behind the child's back.
Use a seatbelt for every trip and teach your child to wear a seatbelt by always wearing one yourself!
In Ontario, if your child has a special need (such as a medical condition that does not allow your child to use a conventional child car seat), you may choose to use a child restraint system that complies with federal safety standards governing alternative restraints for children with special needs (i.e. CMVSS 213.3 and 213.5)
Carefully follow the owner's manuals for both your vehicle and the child car seat. Click here for step-by-step Tips for Installing Child Car Seats with photos.
Most importantly, ensure the seat is tightly secured. If you are having difficulty or want to have your child car seat installation inspected, contact your local public health unit.
To find a public health unit, check the blue pages of your phone book, call the ServiceOntario information line at 1-800-268-4686, or visit the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care: Public Health Units.
For information on child car seat technician training courses hosted by St. John Ambulance, please visit www.sja.ca.
ServiceOntario - 1 800 268-4686
Ministry of Transportation web: www.mto.gov.on.ca
Your local public health unit
Additional information on child car seat safety and car seat recalls is available from:
Transport Canada 1-800-333-0371