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Child Passenger Safety

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child in a car seat

Child Passenger Safety

Making sure your child is safe in the car can feel overwhelming. You want to protect your child but you're not sure if they are properly secured. What kind of car seat do you need for him/her? How do you install it? When do you need to change car seats? When will your child be ready for a seat belt?

The law in Ontario says that the driver is responsible for making sure any person less than 16 years old is properly secured according to their weight, height and age.

Check out the 4 stages below to see where your child fits:

Stage 1 - Rear-facing car seats

The law in Ontario says that you must have your baby in a rear-facing car seat from birth to at least 9 kg (20 lbs). But, you should keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. Some rear-facing car seats are for children that weigh up to 20 kg (45 lbs). Don't worry about your child's legs touching the back of your vehicle's seat as long as your child is still below the weight and height limits of the child car seat.

How to install your rear-facing car seat: There may be more than one way to install your rear-facing car seat. Always check your vehicle's manual and car seat's user guide for how to install your child's car seat. Make sure the back of your rear-facing child car seat is at a 45 degree angle. Make sure the car seat does not move more than 2.5 cm (1") from side to side. 

How to buckle up your child: Make sure the shoulder harness straps are at or just below your baby's shoulders. Have only a one finger space between the harness strap and your child's collarbone. Make sure the chest clip is at armpit level.

To learn more about Stage 1, visit A1 Secure.

Stage 2 - Forward-facing car seats

The law in Ontario says that your child needs a forward-facing car seat from 9 kg (20 lbs) up to 18 kg (40 lbs). But, you should keep your child in a forward-facing child car seat for as long as possible. Some forward-facing car seats are for children weighing up to 30 kg (65 lbs).

How to install your forward-facing car seat: You may have more than one way to install your forward-facing car seat. Always check your vehicle's manual and car seat's user guide for how to install your child car seat. Make sure the child car seat does not move more than 2.5 cm (1") from side to side. 

How to connect the tether strap: Remember, if you have a forward-facing car seat you must connect the tether strap. You will find the tether strap at the top of the car seat. It keeps your child's car seat from moving forward in an accident. If your car does not have a tether anchor, contact a dealership to have one put in.

How to buckle up your child: Make sure the shoulder harness straps are at or just above the child's shoulders. Remember, only one finger should fit between the harness strap and your child's collarbone. Make sure the chest clip is at armpit level.

Remember, think A1Secure for every car ride;

  • Armpit level for harness chest clip. 
  • 1 finger space only between harness straps and the child's chest.
  • Secure car seat to vehicle according to the car seat's user guide.

To learn more about Stage 2, visit A1 Secure.

Stage 3 - Booster seats

The law in Ontario says that your child needs a booster seat if they weigh over 18 kg (40 lbs) until one of the following occurs:

  • The child is 8 years of age or
  • 36 kg (80 lbs) or
  • 145 cm (4' 9") tall

But, if your child has reached one of the above three criteria, they may not be completely ready for a seatbelt. Have the shoulder belt resting on your child's shoulder and not on their neck or arm. Make sure the lap belt is snug and on their hips. 

To learn more about Stage 3, visit A1 Secure.

Here are some other helpful tips:

  • Big snowsuits can affect how tight you can get you the harness of your child's car seat.
  • Do not leave loose items in your vehicle because they may hit and hurt someone during a sudden stop or crash.
  • Items that did not come with your child's car seat may not be safe to use.  For more information on aftermarket products, visit Transport Canada.
  • Register your child's car seat with the manufacturer. They will notify you if there has been a recall on your child's car seat.
  • Replace an expired, torn or broken car seat. Also replace it if it was in a car during a crash.

Please note: In Ottawa, if you do not properly secure your child in a child car seat it is a $240.00 fine and 2 demerit points.

If you need more help installing your child's car seat you can have it looked at by a certified technician. You can do so at: S.E.A.T.S. for Kids Canada  or at Ottawa's Safety Council's Best Fit Program. You can also visit A1 Secure for multilingual pamphlets and videos.

Stage 4 - Seat Belts

Seat belts are designed for older children and adults.

Your child is ready for a seat belt ONLY when:

  • Your child's back is against the back of the vehicle's seat;
  • Your child's knees hang over the seat and feet are touching the floor;
  • The shoulder belt can fit across your child's shoulder, NOT on the neck or face; and
  • The lap belt fits snugly across your child's hip bones, NOT on the stomach.

If your child does not meet all of the above, it is recommended that you continue to use a booster seat.

How to place the seat belt: Make sure when your child is sitting, the shoulder belt fits across the shoulder and not on the neck or the arm. The shoulder belt should never be behind the back or tucked under the arm. Also, the lap belt should fit snugly across the hip bones and not across the stomach

Important points to remember about seat belts

  • If your child is under 13 years of age they are safest in the back seat of the vehicle. Most vehicles have front seat air bags, and these can hurt your child if the bags inflate during a crash or sudden stop. The safest place in the vehicle for your child is always in the back seat.
  • Never put two children in the same seat belt or place the shoulder strap behind your child's back.
  • Do not leave loose items in your vehicle because these may hit and hurt someone in a sudden stop or crash.

 Want to see a visual example? Check out the A1Secure video below:

Do you have more questions?