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Child Car Seats – Are You Using Yours Correctly?

Child Car Seats – Are You Using Yours Correctly?

Purchasing the right car seat for your child is imperative to their safety. But how do you know which is the right model to choose, and, beyond this, that you’re using it correctly?

This guide will review what to look for when it comes to choosing and using a child car seat.


1. Look for the National Safety Mark

In Canada, child car seats and booster seats are regulated with a strict set of standards designated by the National Safety Mark. Legally, all car seats sold and used in Canada must have this mark.

2. Check provincial and territorial requirements

Each province also has its own car seat and booster seat restrictions pertaining to the weight and height of the child. This information can be found on your provincial government website or department for motor vehicles. For example, Ontario’s car seat weight and height regulations can be found on the Ministry of Transportation’s website.

3. Check the expiry date

All car seats and booster seats have an expiry date (or "useful life" date) after which seats must not be used. Transport Canada lists an overview of the typical lifespans from various manufacturers but the most accurate information will come with the seat you purchase.

4. Choose the right stage for your child’s height and weight

Determining the safest seat for your child is not a matter of age, but rather of body compositionBabies and children legally must be seated in the appropriate car seat for their weight and height, as indicated by four stages:

  • Stage 1: Rear-facing seats, typically used to protect babies and small toddlers. More information here.
  • Stage 2: Forward-facing seats, typically used for slightly older children with strong back and neck muscles. More information here.
  • Stage 3: Booster seats, typically used for children who no longer need forward-facing seats but aren’t yet big or tall enough for adequate seat belt protection. More information here.
  • Stage 4: Seat belts, the final stage, but not to be rushed. Transport Canada recommends keeping children in booster seats as long as possible.

The child should graduate to the next stage as soon as they outgrow the car seat’s weight and height limits, but no sooner.

5. Install the car seat

All car seats and booster seats should be installed in the back seat in accordance with the installation instructions found in your vehicle’s owner’s manual and the car seat user guide. Different models of vehicles and child car seats may have different installation mechanisms, so be sure to consult both.

6. Register the child car seat

Registering the seat will help ensure you’re notified in the event there are any recalls, notices or safety concerns. Your seat will have instructions as to where to register in the manual. You can also check the Motor Vehicle Safety Recalls Database for any recalls. Recent notices are usually posted here.

7. Regularly check the car seat to ensure it is positioned correctly

Children can move around a lot, toys and other items can get lodged in the linings of the seat, and general driving can affect the foundation of the child’s car seat. Check the seat and your child’s comfort level regularly to ensure the seat remains secure.

You Can Never Be Too Safe When It Comes to Your Precious Cargo

This guide is a general overview of what to look for when choosing and using the correct child car seat for your little one. Transport Canada offers an official downloadable PDF checklist outlining the above. Print it out and bring it with you when you’re shopping for your child’s car seat.

Unfortunately, many infant, child and booster seats are installed incorrectly, putting your most precious cargo in danger. Make sure you follow the installation instructions closely and check the seat regularly. You can never be too safe when it comes to protecting your little ones.

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