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Car Seat Safety

For a child to get the best protection from the car seat:
•    It must be the right seat for the age, height and weight of the child
•    It must be properly secured in the vehicle. 
•    The child must be properly harnessed into the car seat. 

The Ontario law states that drivers must make sure that their passengers under 16 years of age are secured properly in a child car seat, or by seat belt. The back seat is the safest place for children who require a car seat. Children should not sit in the front seat until that are at least 13 years of age.

Here at the Porcupine Health unit, we know that installing and using a child car seat is not always easy. Below is some useful information that can help guide you. 

Getting Started 

For tips on choosing, installing, and checking that a child meets safety standards, see the Ontario Government video Car Seat Safety on YouTube.

Before trying to install a seat, read your car seat instruction manual and your vehicle’s owners manual. This will help save you time and frustration and help make sure the seat is installed correctly and safety.

To determine if there has been a recall on your car seat type before installing, see the Government of Canada website for Car Seat Recalls.National Safety Mark - Car Seat Safety

Note: All car seats must be tested to meet government safety standards in order to be sold in Canada. Buying a car seat in Canada will ensure that it meets Canadian safety standards set by Transport Canada. Look for the National Safety Mark: it is proof that the car seat meets Canadian Safety Standards


Our neighbouring health unit, Public Health Sudbury & Districts has created the following videos with quick car seat installation tips:

Choosing the right seat

For tips on selecting the right seat for your child, see the video from Parachute Is your child in the right seat on YouTube.

Parachute, a national charity dedicated to injury prevention, provides the following recommendations for the different stages of car seats.

Rear-facing seat

  • A rear-facing car seat provides the best protection for your child’s head, neck and spine in a sudden stop or crash.
  • All infants must use a rear-facing seat.
  • Use a rear-facing-only car seat or a larger, rear-facing convertible seat; either is safe as long as your child fits correctly.
  • Your child is safest riding rear facing until 2, 3 or even 4 years old.
  • Keep your child rear facing for as long as they still fit the larger, rear-facing seat.

For more information about infant carriers and rear-facing seats, see How to use your child’s infant car seat and How to use your child’s rear-facing seat on the Parachute Canada website. 

Forward-facing seat

  • A forward-facing seat uses a five-point harness to spread the force of a sudden stop or crash over the strongest parts of your child’s body.
  • Start using a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness when your child has outgrown their larger, rear-facing seat. This usually happens between ages 2 to 4.
  • Keep your child in a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness until your child weighs at least 18 kg (40 lbs.) and can sit correctly in a booster seat. This may be at 4, 5, 6 or even 7 years old.
  • If the child outgrows their forward-facing seat before they are ready to move to a booster seat, you will need a seat with a 5-point harness that will hold a taller, heavier child.

For more information about forward-facing seats, see How to use your child’s forward-facing seat on the Parachute Canada website. 

Booster seat

  • A booster seat positions your child so that the adult seat belt fits safely across their strongest bones and away from their soft belly.
  • Your child must weigh at least 18 kg (40 pounds) to use a booster seat.
  • A booster seat always requires a lap and a shoulder seat belt.
  • Your child must also be able to sit straight and tall for the whole ride, without moving around or unbuckling. This usually happens between ages 4 and 7.
  • Keep using a booster seat until your child is at least 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) tall and fits the adult seat belt correctly.
  • Buckle a booster seat when not in use; otherwise, the seat may hit passengers or the driver if there is a sudden stop or crash.
  • Use a booster seat for all car travel, even in provinces/territories that do not yet have laws mandating their use.

For more information about booster seats, see How to use your child’s booster seat on the Parachute Canada website. 

Seat belt alone

  • The adult seat belt must fit properly over the child’s strongest bones to protect a child.
  • Once a child is taller than 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches), they may begin to safely fit the adult seat belt. This usually happens between the ages of 10 to 12.

Use the five-step test to see if your child can safely move from a booster seat to a seat belt:

  • Can your child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
  • Do your child’s knees bend comfortably over the edge of the vehicle seat without slouching?
  • Does the lap belt stay low and snug across their hip bones?
  • Does the shoulder belt cross your child’s chest and stay between their neck and shoulder?
  • Can your child sit like this for the entire ride without slouching?

Until your child can meet all five steps, keep using a booster seat.

For more information about seat belts, see How your child’s seat belt should fit on the Parachute Canada website. 

Second-Hand Car Seats

Did you know that it is not recommended to use a used car seat as you will not know the history of the car seat, including whether it’s been damaged or recalled.

However, if you decide to use a used car seat, consider these important factors:

  • Does the car seat still have the original manual or booklet?
  • Is it clear what height and weight limit of the car seat is?
  • Does the care seat have an expiry date in the plastic and a round National Safety Mark sticker?
  • Has the car seat been recalled?
  • Has the car seat ever been involved in an accident? If so, it should not be used again, even it looks undamaged.

If a car seat has past the expiration date, do not use the car seat as it is no longer safe to use. Instead, discard the car seat by cutting the harness straps and tearing the fabric to ensure it is no longer useable. 

Safety Tips when Travelling Other Ways 

Riding in a school bus 

Transport Canada recommends that children be properly restrained in the correct car seat for their height and weight. The school bus must have lower anchorage systems in place and tether straps for those who require them. 

Riding in an airplane

Transport Canada recommends that young children ride in a car seat when travelling by airplane. However, no Canadian laws require the use of car seats on airplanes. If you wish for your child to ride in a car seat on a flight, call the air line to determine if the car seat model will fit properly and follow their instructions.

Riding in a taxi

Even though it may not be required by law, we recommend using an appropriate car seat when traveling by taxi. 

For more information regarding car seat safety, please visit:

Still have questions?

Our team is available by telephone at 705-267-1181 or 1-800-461-1818 and by e-mail at [email protected] to answer your questions and troubleshoot any difficulties you may be having with installing or using your car seat.