Buckle-Up Basics

The Fundamentals

  • Make sure the restraint system has CMVSS (Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard) on the label.
  • Check the weight and height limits of the seat to be sure that it is correct for your child.
  • Try the seat in your vehicle to be sure that it can be installed properly. The car seat should not move more than 2.5cm (1in.) to the front, or side where the belt is attached.
  • Always follow the instructions according to the child seat manufacturer's manual and the vehicle owner's manual.
  • Transport Canada recommends that children 12 and under should be properly restrained in the back seat especially if there is a passenger-side air bag.

Stage 1: Rear-Facing Infant Seat
Birth to 10 kg (22 lbs.) or more

  • An infant-only seat will provide the best fit for younger babies. It is time for your baby to come out of an Infant-only seat when he is over the seat’s upper weight limit or the top of the child’s head is within 2.5cm (1 in.) of the top of the seat. He should then go into a Convertible seat or 3-stage seat, used rear-facing, until it is safe for him to travel facing forward.
  • The harness should be level with, or below, your infant’s shoulders. Make sure the harness is snug, with only one finger fitting between the harness and the baby’s collarbone. The chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.
  • When tightening the vehicle seat belt or Universal Anchorage system (UAS), push the infant seat down and into the upholstery. The car seat should not move more than 2.5cm (1 in.) to the front, or side to side where the belt is attached.

WARNING: Never place a rear-facing child restraint in a seat equipped with an air bag.

Stage 2: Forward-Facing Child Seat
10 - 18 kg (22 - 40 lbs.) or more

  • It is safer for a child to remain rear-facing as long as possible, up to the car seat’s maximum rear-facing weight or until the top of the child’s head is within 2.5cm (1 in.) of the top of the seat. Minimally, a child should be one year old, able to walk unassisted, AND weigh at least 10 kg (22 lbs.) before being turned forward.
  • The harness should be level with, or above, your child’s shoulders. Make sure the harness is snug, with only one finger fitting between the harness and the child’s upper chest. The chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.
  • When tightening the vehicle seat belt or Universal Anchorage system (UAS), kneel in the child restraint to push it down and into the upholstery. The car seat should not move more than 2.5cm (1 in.) to the front, or side to side where the belt is attached.
  • All forward-facing child seats must be anchored to the vehicle frame with a tether strap. Check your vehicle owner's manual or your dealership for tether anchor locations.

Stage 3: Booster Seat
18 kg (40 lbs.) or more

  • A child may not move to a booster seat until he weighs 18 kg. It is safer, however, for a child to use a five-point harness as long as possible. Many new models of car seats allow a child to be harnessed up to 30 kg (65 lbs.)
  • If the top of your child’s ears are over the back of his child restraint but he is not yet 18 kg, he should move to a combination child/booster seat that can accommodate a tall child with a harness.
  • A booster seat raises the child to fit the adult seat belt properly.
  • A child should use a booster seat until he is over the manufacturer’s upper weight limit or height limit, or the top of his ears is above the top of the high back booster or vehicle seat.

Stage 4: Seat Belt
1.45 m (4 ft. 9 in.) tall or more

  • The key to using a seat belt safely is positioning. When your child meets ALL of the criteria below, he can start to use the seat belt on his own.
  • The lap belt should be across the upper thighs, to prevent abdominal injuries or spinal damage.
  • The child should sit fully upright, with back against the vehicle seat. To prevent slouching, a child’s legs should be long enough to bend over the front of the vehicle seat. This will prevent the lap belt from riding up over the abdomen.
  • The shoulder belt should be centered on the shoulder and chest. It should never be put under the arm or behind the child’s back.
  • To fit most shoulder belts, both safety and comfortably, a child should have a height, when sitting, of 74cm (29 in.), and be at least 1.45m (4 ft. 9 in.) tall.

Provincial and territorial legislation differ. Please check with your local authorities.