When installed and used correctly, child car seats and booster seats can reduce the risk of children being injured or killed in collisions.
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
For more information, visit: laws.justice.gc.ca/en/SOR-98-159.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Be careful when buying or using a pre-owned child car seat. Make sure the car 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 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
Health Canada 1800-225-0709