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Safe & Secure: Choosing the right car seat for your child



Safe and Secure - Choosing the right car seat for your child

Photo of a toddler and an infant


Collisions are the main cause of death for Canadian children!

When installed and used correctly, child car seats and booster seats can reduce the risk of children being injured or killed in collisions.

Mother-Harnessing Child in Car Seat

Community car seat inspection clinics indicate that many child car seats are installed and or used incorrectly. Common errors include not tightening the seat belt, Universal Anchorage System (UAS) strap and harness straps enough, and not properly using a tether strap when it’s required. Make sure your child is safe and secure and is buckled up right. Children 12 years of age and under are safest in the back seat, away from front active air bags.

By law, drivers are responsible for ensuring passengers under 16 years of age are secured properly in a seat belt, a child car seat or booster seat.

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 that regulate alternative restraints for children with
special needs.


For more information, visit: laws.justice.gc.ca/en/SOR-98-159.

Infants

Photo of infant in car seat

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act requires children to use a rear-facing car seat until the child weighs at least 9 kg (20 lb.). This is a minimum requirement. Some rear-facing car seats are made for children that weigh up to 20 kg (45 lb.). It is best to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the manufacturer´s weight or height limits.

A rear-facing child car seat faces the back of the vehicle, rests at a 45-degree angle and when properly installed, it moves no more than 2.5 cm (1 in.) where the seat belt or UAS strap passes through it. If necessary, use a tightly rolled towel or a foam bar (pool noodle) under the base of the child car seat to adjust the recline angle to 45 degrees.

Harness straps should sit at or slightly below the child’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 child’s chest at armpit level.

When a child outgrows the maximum height or weight limits of an infant rear-facing car seat, they may move to a larger convertible rear-facing child car seat until the child is ready to face forward. It’s best to keep your child in the rear-facing position until they reach the maximum height or weight limits of the convertible rear-facing car seat.


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Photo of a boy harnessed in car seat

Toddlers

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act requires children to use a forward-facing child car seat when they weigh from 9 kg to 18 kg (20 to 40 lb.). This is a minimum requirement. Some forward-facing car seats are made for children that weigh up to 30 kg (65 lb.). It is best to
keep your child in a forward-facing car seat until they reach the manufacturer´s weight and height limits.

To prevent the child car seat from moving forward and causing injury in a collision, it is important to use the tether strap exactly as the manufacturer recommends. Read your vehicle owner’s manual to find the tether locations in your vehicle and to learn how they must be used. If your vehicle does not have a tether anchor, contact a dealership to have one installed.

To install a forward-facing child car seat, fasten the tether strap to the tether anchor. Using your body weight, push the child car seat down into the vehicle seat then fasten and tighten the seat belt or UAS strap. When it’s properly installed, it will move no more than 2.5 cm (1 in.)
where the seat belt or UAS strap passes through the child car seat. Make sure the harness straps are at or slightly above the child´s shoulders and are snug, with only one finger width between the strap and the child’s chest. Place the chest clip at armpit level.


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Pre-school to 8 years old

Photo of girl sitting in a booster seat

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act requires children to use a booster seat when they weigh 18 kg to 36 kg (40-80 lb.), are less than 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) tall, and are under the age of 8. This is a minimum requirement. It is best to keep your child in a booster seat until they reach the manufacturer’s height or weight limits.

Seat belts are designed to protect older children and adults. Booster seats raise a child up so that the adult seat belt works more effectively by properly positioning the seat belt across the child’s body. Booster seats protect against serious injury 3 ½ times better than seat belts 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 seat, vehicle seat or headrest. The shoulder strap must lie across the child’s shoulder (not the neck or face) and middle of the chest.

The lap belt must cross low over the hips, not the stomach. Never use seat belt adjusters.


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Photo of a girl harnessed in a seat belt

Youth

Seat belts are designed to protect older children and adults. Once a child can sit against the back of the vehicle seat with their legs bent comfortably over the edge, and they can maintain this position for the entire trip, they are ready to move from the booster seat
to the vehicle seat belt.

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act allows a child to use a seat belt alone when one of the following conditions is met:

  • Child turns 8 years old, or
  • Child weighs 36 kg (80 lb.), or
  • Child is 145 cm (4´ 9˝) tall or more


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.

Never put two children in the same seat belt or place the shoulder strap behind the child’s back or under their arm. One person, for each seat belt.

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Keep them safe and secure…

Photo of baby harnessed in a car seat
  • Use the right car seat for the child’s height, weight and development.
  • It´s best to take the child car seat out of the box and install it a couple of weeks before the child arrives. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and read your vehicle owner’s manual for correct child car seat installation and use.
  • Be sure to secure the child correctly. Make sure harness straps are flat and snug.Always use a tether strap with a forward-facing child car seat.
  • Keep children away from all active front air bags. Children 12 years of age and under are safest in the back seat.
  • Avoid using items that did not come with the new child car seat as they may not be safe to use. They can affect the way the car seat reacts in a collision. This includes items such as bunting bags where the shoulder harness passes through it, comfort straps or trays. Contact the child car seat manufacturer to ask if the item is safe to use.
  • Every child car seat and booster seat sold in Canada has an expiry or useful life date on it, and should not be used if it has passed the date.

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Pre-owned child car seats

Be careful when buying or using a pre-owned child car seat. Make sure the car seat:

  • meets the latest requirements of the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (Health Canada) has instructions and all necessary straps and hardware
  • has never been in a collision
  • has instructions and all necessary straps and hardware
  • meets Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and displays the National Safety Mark
  • has not expired or exceeded its useful life date as determined by the manufacturer
  • has no discoloured stress marks or cracks and the harness straps are not worn or torn

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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)

How Do I Know the Seat is Installed Correctly?

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.

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For more information about child car seat safety, please contact:

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

Web: http://www.tc.gc.ca

Health Canada 1800-225-0709

Road Safety. It starts with you.