Travelling safely: Car seats

Correction: Please note that in the 2020 printed edition of the From Tiny Tot to Toddler guide, there was an error in the second bullet point on page 678. The text should say “The harness straps must go through the slots in the back of the seat at the height of your child’s shoulders or a little higher, and not “a little lower,” as written. This information is important to ensure the optimal safety of children in forward-facing car seats. This information has been corrected on this page and the PDF versions. To receive a copy of the corrected page please contact [email protected].


Essential information to rememberCar seats are essential for all car travel with your infant, right from birth.

An appropriate child safety seat, when used properly, can reduce the risk of death and injury by 70% in the event of a collision.

Types of car seats

The type of car seat you should use depends on your child’s weight and height. To choose the proper seat, check the car seat manufacturer’s recommendations for maximum weight and height.

There are three types of children’s car seats:

  • Infant car seats (also known as bucket seats), from birth until at least 10 kg (22 lb.). Many models of infant seats can also be used by children over 10 kg.
  • Child seats for children who weigh at least 10 kg (22 lb.). Most child seats go up to 29.5 kg (65 lb.).
  • Booster seats for children who weigh at least 18 kg (40 lb.). Booster seats are mandatory for children up to 145 cm in height or 9 years of age.

There are also convertible seats that can be used as an infant seat, child seat, or booster seat.

Where to install a car seat in a vehicle

Information to which special attention should be paidWarning regarding air bags

Never put a child of 12 years or less in the front seat if your vehicle has a passenger-side front airbag.

If you need to sit your child in the front seat due to exceptional circumstances (e.g., the vehicle has no back seat or your child has a health issue that requires close supervision), you must first submit an airbag deactivation application to the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ).

For more information, go to www.saaq.gouv.qc.ca/en/road-safety/modes-transportation/automobile/safety-devices/airbags/deactivation/.

For your child’s safety, the car seat should always be installed on the back seat of a vehicle.

Car seat orientation

Rear-facing car seats

Infant car seats (or bucket seats) and convertible seats used as infant seats must always be installed facing the rear of the vehicle.

For safety reasons, Transport Canada recommends using a rear-facing infant or child seat as long as possible, i.e., as long as your child hasn’t reached the car seat manufacturer’s recommended weight and height limits. There must be a space of at least 2.5 cm between the top of the child’s head and the top of the seat.

Parents who wish to seat a child facing the front before he has reached the car seat manufacturer’s recommended weight and height limits may only do so if the three following conditions are met:

  • The child is at least one year old.
  • He weights over 10 kg (22 lb.).
  • He can stand up by himself.

Front-facing car seats

Once your child has grown too tall or too heavy to use a rear-facing car seat, you’ll need a front-facing child seat or a convertible seat used as a front-facing child seat. At this stage, the child is still secured in his seat by the seat harness, but now faces forward.

Booster seats and convertible seats used as booster seats ;must always face forward.

How to install a car seat and secure your child

Information essentielle, à retenir

Read the manufacturer’s instructions very carefully before putting your child in a car seat.

To properly secure your child in his seat, you’ll need to consider the type of seat and the direction it faces (front or rear). Car seat use is divided into three consecutive phases, starting with the birth of the child.

Phase 1

Photo: Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec

Types of seats: Infant seat (bucket seat), child seat or a convertible seat used as an infant seat or child seat

Direction: Facing the rear of the vehicle

  • The harness straps must go through the slots in the back of the seat at the height of your child’s shoulders or a little lower.
  • The chest clip connecting the two harness straps must be placed at armpit level (middle of your child’s chest).
  • The harness straps must be tightened as close as possible to your child’s body. Don’t leave more than a finger’s width between your child’s body and the harness.

During baby’s first month of life, try to avoid taking him on trips of more than one hour at a time. If you must take your newborn on a long trip, it is a good idea to take frequent breaks. Newborn babies have very little muscle tone and they tend to slide down in their seats, which can constrict their breathing. Stop every now and then to take your baby out of his seat and move him around.

Phase 2

Photo: Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec

Types of seats: Child seat or convertible seat used as a child seat

Direction: Facing the front of the vehicle

  • Attach the tether strap located at the top of the car seat back to the anchor bolt in the vehicle. The anchor bolt is usually located behind the rear seats.
  • The harness straps must go through the slots in the back of the seat at the height of your child’s shoulders or a little higher.
  • The chest clip connecting the two harness straps must be placed at armpit level (middle of your child’s chest).
  • The harness straps must be tightened as close as possible to your child’s body. Don’t leave more than a finger’s width between your child’s body and the harness.

Phase 3

Types of seats: Booster seat or convertible seat used as a booster seat

Direction: Facing the front of the vehicle

Booster seats raise your child so that the seatbelt is properly aligned to protect him in case of accident.

For more information

Essential information to rememberIt’s the law.

In a moving vehicle, your child must be secured in a car seat that is appropriate for his height and weight until he is 145 cm or 9 years old.

Car seat safety

All car seats sold in Canada meet Transport Canada standards. Make sure the car seat bears a compliance label before you use it. It is illegal to use car seats purchased in other countries because their safety standards are not the same as ours.

Expiry date

An expiry date is usually engraved on the plastic part of car seats sold in Canada. If you can’t find the expiry date, see the seat’s user manual or contact the seat manufacturer. Be sure to have the following information on hand: serial number, date of manufacture, and date of purchase of the seat.

Accidents

If your child’s car seat is in an accident, check the seat owner’s manual to see if the collision was serious enough to require seat replacement. If in doubt, it is recommended that you replace the car seat, even if it does not look damaged.

Manufacturer recalls

Every year, car seat manufacturers issue a number of recalls. That’s why it’s a good idea to register your car seat. You can register your seat on the manufacturer’s website or fill out the product registration card that came in the original box and return it to the manufacturer by mail. Once your car seat is registered, you’ll be able to receive recall notices from the manufacturer.

Used car seats

Parents are strongly advised not to get a used car seat because you need to know the full history of seat your child will use.

If you do decide to get a used car seat, make sure it meets the following criteria:

  • It is in good condition and has all its parts.
  • It has the Transport Canada compliance label (the one with the maple leaf).
  • It has not been in an accident.
  • It has not been recalled by the manufacturer.
  • It is not past its expiry date.

To find out if a car seat has been recalled, visit the Transport Canada website at www.tc.gc.ca, click on “Child car seat safety,” and go to the section “Safety alerts and notices for child car seats”.

Network for the Inspection of Child Safety Seats

SAAQ, in partnership with CAA-Québec, offers a child car seat verification service as well as advice on how to use car seats properly. This service is available free of charge throughout Québec.

If you would like to have your child’s car seat checked and make sure it’s installed properly, contact a CAA network member in your area. Go to www.caaquebec.com/en/on-theroad/services/child-car-seat-verification-network.

Taxis

For safety reasons, taking a taxi with your child is not recommended unless you can put him in a car seat suitable for his weight and height.

If you must take a taxi with your child and don’t have a car seat, the Highway Safety Code requires him to wear a seat belt, unless he is unable to sit up on his own. If your child can’t sit up on his own, it is recommended that you put your own seatbelt on first, then hold the child in your lap.