Car Seats

Motor vehicle collisions are the number one cause of death for children aged 1-9 in Canada. Most car seats and booster seats are installed incorrectly. When used properly, car seats can decrease fatality risk by 71% and injury risk by 67%. A properly installed booster seat can reduce injury risk by 59% compared to a seat belt alone.

The good news is these injuries can be prevented by using your child’s car seat correctly.

Safety in the car

Follow these tips to keep your family safe in the car:

  • Pay attention to the road while you are driving; keep handheld devices out of sight and reach and pull over to the side of the road if you need to help your child.
  • Car seats are meant for travel only. Take your child out of the car seat once you reach your destination, even if they are asleep.
  • Big, bulky clothing compresses in a crash, leaving too much space between your child and the harness. Instead, consider using something thin and warm like fleece, or a blanket over your child.
  • Check your vehicle for items that could hurt passengers during a crash. This includes things like “Baby on Board” signs, baby mirrors, snow brushes, or other loose items. If you need to carry items in your car, secure them in your trunk.
  • Only use products that came with your car seat, as they have been tested together.
  • Keep your car smoke-free. In Ontario, it is against the law to smoke in a vehicle with passengers who are under 16 years old.
  • Never leave your child inside a car alone, even with the windows open. 
  • Check the temperature of your child’s car seat and seat belt before you put him in.
  • Do not allow your child to play in your vehicle.  Keep your keys out of sight and out of reach of your child.

Is your car seat safe?

Consider these points to see if your seat is safe for your child:

  • CMVSS label - Transport CanadaDoes the seat have a CMVSS label? This means that it has passed testing and can be used in Canada.
  • Check the expiry date. If you can’t find your expiry date, contact your seat manufacturer.
  • Look at your car seat’s height and weight limits to make sure your child can safely use the seat.
  • Check for recalls. Send in your product registration card and/or check with your car seat manufacturer or Transport Canada for recalls.
  • Make sure your seat can fit and be properly installed in your vehicle. Not all car seats are compatible with all cars.
  • Has your seat been in a collision? Even a small “fender-bender” could affect the safety of your seat. Be sure to check with your car seat manufacturer to see if your seat is still safe to use.
  • Have you read through your seat and vehicle manuals? These will guide you through important installation information specific to your seat and vehicle.
  • Check for any damage or missing parts, including labels. Car seats may not protect your child in a crash if you’ve installed without reading all the labels, or if the seat is not in good condition.

Car Seat Stages

Review the information below for help with installation and harnessing. If you need more assistance visit Car Seat SupportAlways read both the car seat and vehicle owner’s manual before installing any car or booster seat.

Allow your child to remain in a rear-facing position for as long as the seat allows, as this position is most protective against head and neck injuries. Rear-facing seats have been shown to be up to 75% more effective than forward-facing seats in protecting infant passengers.

  • Begin by installing the car seat in your vehicle’s back seat.
  • Based on the manufacturer’s directions, use the Universal Anchorage System (UAS) or seatbelt to secure the car seat. Check your car manual for UAS weight limits.
  • Make sure the car seat is tightly secured. The car seat should not be able to move more than 1 inch when pushed front-to-back or from side-to-side at the belt path.
  • Ensure that your car seat is secured at the right angle as indicated on the side of the car seat or in the car seat manual. Refer to your manual to check if pool noodle(s) or towel(s) can be used to adjust the angle of your rear-facing car seat.
  • For infant carriers, refer to the side of the car seat or the car seat manual to learn the correct position of the carry handle while in the vehicle.
  • Make sure the harness is flat against your child and that the chest clip is located at armpit level.
  • To check if the harness is tight, vertically pinch the straps at the collar bone. If you can grab excess webbing, the straps should be tightened.
  • Place harness straps at or below your infant’s shoulder level.

Switch your child to a forward-facing position once they have outgrown the height, weight or fit and limits for their rear-facing seat.

  • Some forward-facing car seats have age minimums; make sure your child meets the age requirement of the seat if applicable.
  • Begin by installing the car seat in your vehicle’s back seat.
  • Based on the manufacturer’s directions, use the Universal Anchorage System (UAS) or seatbelt to secure the car seat. Check your car manual for UAS weight limits.
  • Route the tether strap according to the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions, and attach the tether hook to the tether anchor (this is required by law).
  • Make sure the car seat is tightly secured. The car seat should not be able to move more than 1 inch when pushed front-to-back or from side-to-side at the belt path.
  • Make sure the harness is flat against your child and that the chest clip is located at armpit level.
  • To check if the harness is tight, vertically pinch the straps at the collar bone. If you can grab excess webbing, the straps should be tightened.
  • Place harness straps at or above your child’s shoulder level.

Only move your child to a booster seat once they have reached the maximum height, weight or fit limits for their forward-facing seat. In Canada, children can only be transitioned to a booster seat once they reach a weight of 40 lbs or more.

  • Booster seats work by raising your child to a higher position so that the adult seat belt in your car fits them properly.
  • To correctly use a booster seat, position the seat belt so that the shoulder belt lies across mid-chest level and is not rubbing on your child’s neck or hanging off their shoulder. Position the lap portion of the seat belt low across your child’s hips. Make sure it is snug and does not ride up their belly.
  • You may need to test out different booster seat types until you find one with the best fit.

Only move your child from a booster seat to seat belt after they have reached the height of 4 feet, 9 inches or 80 lbs or 8 years old.

  • To wear a seat belt safely, children should meet the following 5 points:
    1. They are able to sit with their back fully against your vehicle’s seat.
    2. Their knees hang over the seat with no signs of slouching.
    3. Your vehicle’s lap belt is positioned low around their hips and flat against their thighs. It should never ride up on their belly.
    4. Your vehicle’s shoulder belt is positioned at mid shoulder and across their chest. The shoulder belt should not be against your child’s neck or left behind their back.
    5. They are able to sit in the proper position while in the booster seat for the duration of the trip.
  • You may need to purchase a different booster seat if you cannot achieve the correct position for the lap belt and shoulder belt with your vehicle’s seat belt.

Contact us

Phone Health Connections: 905-546-3550
Email: childsafety@hamilton.ca
 www.facebook.com/HealthyFamiliesHamilton