New car seat regulations

In May 2010, the Government of Canada announced new regulations (effective December 31, 2011) that will make Canada’s testing standards for child car seats unprecedented and world leading. The regulations are part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to ensure Canadian product safety standards are second to none.

Parents should be aware that they are still able to use their current car seats after the new regulations take effect. However, it must be replaced if it was damaged or stressed in a vehicle involved in a collision. Also, parents should check the expiry date of the seat and be sure to replace it when it reaches that date. If the shell or materials on the seat are torn or damaged, the seat should be replaced.

The changes are driven by the fact that children have become heavier over the past two decades.

The new regulations are part of a regular process of reviewing and updating child safety standards while using the most up-to-date technology available for testing. In addition, these regulations were rewritten to harmonize some elements with the U.S. and to incorporate new and unique Canadian testing requirements. The major issues being addressed are:

  • a new testing requirement using a three-point seat belt to secure car seats in vehicles;
  • changes to dynamic testing of car seats to adopt most of the U.S. testing parameters, including using the U.S. acceleration corridor and performance criteria;
  • an increase in the maximum allowable weight limit of infant seats (rear-facing seats) from 10 kg to 20 kg;
  • an increase in the maximum allowable weight limit of child seats (forward-facing seats) from 22 kg to 30 kg;
  • the introduction of dynamic testing requirements for booster seats; and
  • the allowance of harnesses to be used on school buses for special needs children.

Car Time Stages

The best protection for your children is to make sure they are always buckled-up properly while in the car, even for short trips. Use the chart to help you figure out what stage your child belongs in, (below/at left). Read your car owner’s manual and child seat user guide to learn how to install each seat properly.

Stage 1: Rear-facing seats are placed at a 45-degree angle so that your baby’s head is supported. This makes it easier for them to breathe. A snug harness will keep your baby safe in a sudden stop or crash. It is okay if your child’s legs touch the back of your vehicle seat, as long as your child is still below the manufacturer’s weight and height limits.

Stage 2: Forward-facing seats have harness straps that are narrower than a vehicle seat belt and fits children’s small shoulders. As long your child is still in the weight/height range of the seat itself, you can still safely use the child seat.

Stage 3: Booster seats are designed to allow children to use seat belts who no longer need forward-facing seats. The booster seat positions a child properly so that the seat belt is correctly located on the lap and shoulder.

Make sure the shoulder belt rests on your child’s shoulder, and never on their neck or arm, or under their arm. The lap belt should be snug against your child’s hips and not on their stomach. There are different ways to install a booster seat. Read your car owner’s manual and booster seat user guide to learn how.

Stage 4: Seat belts are used when children are tall enough to use a seat belt that is properly positioned over their lap and shoulder without needing a booster seat. Your child must be able to sit up straight, with their back against the back of your vehicle’s seat. Also, feet should touch the floor without having to slouch. Slouching makes the lap belt move up over their stomach when it should be over their hips.
Don’t rush to move your child up from one stage to the next. As long they are still in the right weight/height range of the seat itself, they are safest in that seat.

Source: Transport Canada.