Car seat types
Car crashes are the leading cause of death and injury to children in Canada. When children use car seats, they are well protected and less likely to be severely injured. Parents and caregivers can choose the right car seat or booster seat for their child and make sure it is used for every single ride.
Parents are welcome to contact us with questions that are not answered below.
Knowing a child’s height and weight before purchasing a new car seat is important. Before installing a new car seat, it’s very helpful to sit down with the car seat manual and the vehicle manual and read through both carefully. This can help to avoid frustrations.
Rear-facing car seats
Canadian law requires that newborns and infants use a rear-facing car seat. A rear-facing infant car seat should be used from birth until a child reaches the height or weight limit of the seat. The laws are slightly different in each province, but generally infants should use a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 10 kilograms (22 pounds), walking unassisted and one year of age. Parents should not rush to put their child in a forward-facing car seat after this point. The rear-facing position is safest and many manufacturers are now making car seats that fit larger children. Parents can check their provincial laws for specific legal requirements regarding height and weight.
Forward-facing car seats
Under Canadian law, children who have reached the minimum requirements of 22 pounds, can walk unassisted and are one year of age may transition to a forward-facing car seat. Forward-facing car seats are designed for children who are at least one year of age because their spines, bones and muscles have grown stronger. Children should use a forward-facing car seat until their height or weight exceeds the restrictions for the model they are using. Then they can either purchase another forward-facing seat that is designed for larger children, or move to a booster seat. Parents can check their provincial laws for specific legal requirements regarding height and weight. Forward-facing car seats use a tether strap to prevent the top of the car seat from moving forward too much during a collision.
Most provinces in Canada have laws regarding booster seats. That’s because children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seats are much better protected in a booster seat then they would be using only a vehicle lap and shoulder belt. Parents can check their provincial laws for specific legal requirements regarding height and weight.
Booster seat use is important even in provinces that do not yet have laws for them. The booster seat simply raises the child up in the vehicle seat, so that the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt are positioned correctly. The lap belt must rest low across the hips, and the shoulder belt must rest in the middle shoulder region – not touching the neck.
High-back booster seats are the right choice if a vehicle’s back seat does not have adjustable head rests. If a vehicle’s back seat does have adjustable head rests, parents can select either a high-back or no-back booster seat. Booster seats must be used with both the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt.
Booster seats should be buckled even when they are not being used, otherwise the seat may hit passengers or the driver if there is a sudden stop or collision.
Seatbelts are designed for adult bodies. For this reason, it is important that parents check where the lap and shoulder belt rest on their older child’s body. The lap belt must rest low across the hips, and the shoulder belt must rest in the middle shoulder region – not touching the neck. If the lap and shoulder belt do not fit correctly, the child must return to using a booster seat for a little while longer. This is important even if your province does not have a booster seat law in place yet.
While booster seat regulations vary by province, best practices recommend that children should remain in a booster seat until they are at least 145cm (4'9). Do this 5-step test with them to see that they are ready to move from a booster seat to a seat belt:
- The child can sit all the way back against the back of the vehicle seat.
- The knees bend comfortably over the edge of the vehicle seat without slouching
- The lap belt fits snugly across the top of the thighs and doesn't ride up on the stomach
- The should belt goes across the chest bone and the middle of the shoulder, NOT across the neck and NEVER behind the back.
- The child can sit properly for the entire trip.
Used car seats
It is not recommended to use a used car seat, as you will not know the history of the seat (ex. whether it was in a collision).
However, if you decide to use a used seat, here are some important factors to consider:
- Does the car seat still have the original manual or booklet?
- Is it clear what height and weight the car seat is designed for?
- Does the car seat have an expiry date embossed in the plastic and a round National Safety Mark sticker?
- Has the car seat been recalled? Parents can check on the Transport Canada website for recalls.
- Has the car seat ever been in a crash? If so, it should not be used again, even if it looks undamaged.
- When parents want to discard a car seat that is no longer safe to use, they should cut the harness straps and tear the fabric first. Damaging the shell will also ensure the seat is not taken from the garbage and reused.
Parents can find specific expiry date information for car seat models at Transport Canada.
Best car seats?
The best car seat is one that fits a child's height and weight and can be correctly installed in the vehicle being used. Not all car seats fit all vehicle seats well and sometimes parents need to try more than one car seat model.
All car seats must be tested to meet government safety standards in order to be sold in Canada. Transport Canada is the government department that sets the safety standards. Buying a car seat in Canada will ensure that it meets Canadian safety standards.
While Parachute does not endorse any particular car seat, we strongly advise against using older used car seats. Although they may look fine, the plastic begins to weaken over time and it may not perform as well in a collision.