Last updated Feb. 15, 2018.
Every year, approximately 2,500 children aged 1 to 4 are killed in a car accidents in Canada, reports the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS). Using a child safety seat, however, reduces a child’s risk of injury in a crash by 75%, according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
Ontario law mandates that every child younger than 16 years of age be properly secured in a motor vehicle. Failure to abide by the law could result in fines, demerit points on your license, and risk of injury to your child.
It’s also important to use your child’s restraint according to the manufacturer’s instructions and check periodically to ensure that the seat is not under recall.
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Rear-Facing Car Seat Laws in Ontario
The type of car seat you select depends upon the age and size of your child.
If your child weighs less than 9 kg (20 pounds), your child will need to have a rear-facing car seat in Ontario. These types of seats are meant to be positioned at a 45-degree angle. If the seat rests at a lesser degree, the Ministry recommends using a tightly rolled towel or piece of foam bar under the base of the seat to adjust the angle.
Infant car seats are meant to be secured relatively tightly; after putting the seat belt through an infant seat, it should not wiggle or move more than 2.5 cm (1 inch). Likewise, the built-in harness straps should be snug over your child’s shoulders. If you can fit more than one finger between the strap and your child’s body, tighten the straps a bit.
Toddler Car Seats
If your child is 9 kg to 18 kg (20 to 40 pounds), you may use a forward-facing child car seat for him or her. Read the manufacturer’s weight specification to determine if the seat is appropriate for your child. Some toddler car seats are suitable for children up to 30 kg (65 pounds). The Ministry recommends continuing to use the toddler seat until your child has reached the manufacturer’s weight limit.
In order to ensure that the car seat fulfills its purpose and protects your child, read the manufacturer’s instructions and use the tether strap according to the recommendations. Also, just as with the infant seat, when you secure the seat in your vehicle, it should move no more than 2.5 cm (1 inch).
The last stage of car seats is the booster seat. The main function of a booster seat is to elevate your child so that the regular seat belt can secure him or her properly. The booster seats must be used with a lap and shoulder combination seat belt — not a simple lap belt.
The Ministry explains that booster seats protect against serious injury 3.5 times better than seat belts alone. The Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act mandates children need to use booster seats at least until they turn 8 years old, reach 36 kg (80 pounds) and are 145 cm (4 feet, 9 inches) tall.
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Registering Your Car Seat
When you purchase a car seat or booster seat, it should come with a registration card. Fill out the card in its entirety and send it to the manufacturer. The manufacturer will keep your purchase and contact information on file. If ever the manufacturer becomes aware of a defect with your car seat model or your seat is subject to a recall, the manufacturer will be able to notify you.
Some manufacturers allow you to register your car seat online for added convenience. If you’re unsure whether or not your seat is registered, contact the manufacturer directly to make an inquiry. It will provide you with directions on registering your seat.
Ontario Car Seat Recalls
Note that car seats have an expiration date. Check your seat’s expiry date before using it. Also, keep in mind that car seats are sometimes recalled for manufacturer defects, which could put your child at risk. Your car seat manufacturer should notify you if your seat is the subject of a recall. However, if your address has changed since you registered your seat, or if you never sent in your registration card, you likely won’t receive a recall notification.
In addition to calling the manufacturer to inquire about recent recalls, you can peruse the most recent car seat and booster seat recalls on Transport Canada’s website under the Child Safety directory. Transport Canada has the responsibility of documenting, monitoring and altering the public of all safety-related child car seat recalls.
On the site, you can search for recalls by manufacturer. Each recall notice will provide information on the defect as well as what to do to remedy it. In most instances, the manufacturer will remedy the situation either by replacing the defective part or providing you with a new seat.
Tips for Using a Car Seat Safely
The CPS provides a few helpful child seat safety tips to keep in mind.
- Up to 90% of car seats are used incorrectly. After purchasing your seat, read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them exactly. Keep them in a file for future reference.
- Ensure your child’s seat is suited for her weight and height.
- Always situate your child’s seat in the middle of the back seat whenever possible because this is the safest spot in the car, should a crash occur.
- After you buckle the seat in, wiggle it around. It should move no more than 2.5 cm in any direction.
- You can contact a local fire, police or public health department to see if they have someone there who can check your seat to ensure it’s installed properly.