Car seat safety

“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury in young children. A properly used child restraint can prevent up to 75% of these deaths and injuries.”

– Infant and Toddler Safety Association

Ensuring a car seat is properly installed is crucial to a child’s safety. But, car seat safety extends beyond just a properly installed car seat. Car seats are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Making sure a child is in the right sized seat is equally important to their safety.

Southwestern Public Health wants to help you keep your children as safe as possible while traveling on the road. Always follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions and your vehicle instructions when installing the car seat.

The rules

Parents and guardians must use car seats purchased in Canada. Car seats bought in other countries, including the United States, do not meet Canada’s high car seat safety standards, and are not legal to use in Canada.

By law, children under the age of eight must be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system – car seat or booster seat – based on their weight and height. If a child eight or older does not meet the criteria to safely use a seatbelt, they should remain in a booster seat.

Transport Canada recommends that all children under 12 years of age sit in the back seat. Most cars have front seat airbags that can injure small children if the bags inflate during a crash or sudden stop.

The penalties

Drivers can be fined $240 and lose two demerit points for every child who is not in an appropriate restraint system or whose seat is not properly installed.

Car seat installation

Car seats make travel on roads safer for children. Properly installed car seats keep children in place and offer increased protection during a crash or sudden vehicle stop. But, according to a Canadian Paediatric Society, car seats are being used or installed incorrectly anywhere from 41% - 81% of the time. Not using the correct seat for the weight and/or height of the child is the most prevalent form of misuse. Thereafter, the three following errors are most common:

  • Car seat is not secured tightly enough in the vehicle
  • Harness is not snug enough on the child
  • Chest clip is not level with the child’s armpits

Remember to always read the manufacturer’s instructions and the child restrain section in your car owner’s manual.

Car seat clinics

Southwestern Public Health DOES NOT conduct car seat clinics or safety checks. However, there are local resources that offer these services:

Other car seat hazards

Additional resources