Children's Car Seats

From Issue: 
Vol LI, No. 2, May 2007

Information you need to know from Transport Canada

Transport Canada says you can buckle up and breathe easy!

The safety of children is important to everyone and is everybody’s responsibility, especially while travelling. It has been proven that children’s car seats are the best protection for a child in a collision. The correct use of a car seat on every trip can reduce the likelihood of serious injury or death in a vehicle crash.

When buying a car seat, you need to:

  1. Check the weight and height limits of the seat to be sure that it is correct for your child;
  2. Check that the car seat can be properly installed and that the straps can be sufficiently tightened so there is little or no movement when you tug or push on the seat;
  3. Make sure the car seat comes with full manufacturer’s instructions and take the time to read them together with your vehicle owner’s manual; and
  4. Make sure the car seat is labelled with the National Safety Mark, which is a legal indication that the car seat meets all applicable Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS).

National Safety Mark

National Safety Mark

Now, what is the National Safety Mark?

The National Safety Mark is a Crown trademark, incorporating a unique alphanumeric identifier that the Minister of Transport authorizes and assigns to individual manufacturers to affix to all car seats intended for the Canadian market. The National Safety Mark represents the manufacturer’s declaration that the car seat complies with all applicable safety standards and regulations in effect on the date of manufacture.

What are the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS)?

Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, Transport Canada develops and enforces regulations on the safety performance of vehicles, tires, and equipment for use in the restraint of children in motor vehicles. The regulatory requirements for children’s car seats are set out in the Motor Vehicle Restraint Systems and Booster Cushions Safety Regulations, and specify record keeping, owner registration systems, product labelling, installation instructions, and, by reference, the testing requirements. These testing requirements are set out in the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) and include performance requirements for:

  1. contactable surfaces, to ensure appropriate padding and support of a child’s head, neck, torso and back;
  2. belts, buckles, tether straps and lower connector systems, to enable the car seat to be secured to the vehicle and the child to be properly restrained in the car seat;
  3. flammability testing, to ensure that the car seat is constructed only of materials that do not burn easily;
  4. inversion testing, to ensure that children will be retained in the car seat and that the car seat stays securely fastened even when turned upside down; and
  5. dynamic testing, to ensure that the car seat provides optimum protection in vehicle frontal collisions.

How does Transport Canada ensure company and product compliance?

Transport Canada develops and enforces regulations, conducts research in support of regulatory development, and provides leadership in many road safety program and policy initiatives.

New manufacturers of car seats are required to submit representative product samples, all mandatory labelling, installation instructions, and test documentation to a comprehensive examination by the department’s compliance engineering staff. This serves to verify that the manufacturer has the appropriate certification capabilities and to ensure that their new car seats meet all applicable Canadian requirements. Once a manufacturer is able to satisfy all certification requirements, and their car seats are labelled accordingly (including the authorized National Safety Mark), the car seats can be legally marketed in Canada.

Beyond the original authorization of a manufacturer’s National Safety Mark, the department conducts selective compliance-enforcement testing every year. Car seats offered for sale to the public are purchased at the retail level, inspected and tested to verify that they meet all applicable requirements. Any compliance test failure or other non-compliance condition is followed up with an investigation to determine the cause and what remedial action may be appropriate.

The department also investigates complaints into alleged safety-related defects involving car seats. If companies themselves become aware of safety-related defects or non-compliance conditions in their car seats, they are required to provide this information both to Transport Canada and to car seat owners. This is why it is important for all parents and caregivers to promptly return a duly completed owner’s registration card to the manufacturer. Where deemed necessary, Transport Canada issues a public notification advising Canadians of any safety implications associated with children’s car seats.

And beyond compliance assurance?

The department also conducts research in order to monitor and, if necessary, improve the existing regulations to ensure that optimal safety is provided to Canadian children. For example, Transport Canada is conducting car-to-car side-impact testing and is working with international working groups to develop a relevant side-impact test protocol, as well as advanced side-impact crash test child dummies. Transport Canada has also completed studies to examine how it can make car seat labels and instructions clearer and easier to understand.

Transport Canada manages departmental and university-based teams who conduct investigations into real-world collisions. These investigations provide in-depth knowledge of the safety performance of children’s car seats and occupant protection systems in front- and side-impact crashes. Transport Canada collaborates with numerous international research groups to monitor child injuries and develop state-of-the-art programs.

While it is the provinces and territories that require the use of car seats, Transport Canada provides information for parents and caregivers on its website, which includes Public Notices and Consumer Information Notices, as well as web versions of several publications, including “How to Protect Children in Vehicles with Side Air Bags” and the “Car Time” fact sheets that provide information on how to protect your child in the car, at each stage as they grow.

Parents and caregivers, please rest assured that you can use car seats with confidence. They have been designed, engineered and tested to provide effective protection for your child in a collision, as long as you do your part. That means properly installing the right size car seat for your child’s weight and height, and carefully following the instructions from both the car seat manufacturer and the vehicle manufacturer.

If you have any questions or concerns about children’s car seats, any other motor vehicle safety issue, or would like to see Public Notices and Consumer Information Notices, simply call Transport Canada’s Road Safety Information Centre at 1-800-333-0371 (toll-free in Canada) or visit our website at www.tc.gc.ca/roadsafety/.

Buckle up, drive safely and enjoy the ride!