Child safety involves choosing a car seat that is adapted to a child's weight and height, and installing it properly.
It is important to consider the weight and height limits specified by the manufacturer, as well as ease of use. A child seat that is easy to use has a better chance of being used properly.
Before you purchase a car seat, it is also important to consult your vehicle owner's manual, consider the space available in the back seat, and check how to install a car seat in your vehicle.
Some car seats are adaptable and can be used at various stages of your child’s growth. These car seats are called “convertible seats.”
There are 3 types of convertible car seats:
Secure your child in a rear-facing seat as long as possible, from the moment your child is born until your child reaches the weight and height limits specified by the seat manufacturer.
The baby's feet can safely touch the backrest of the vehicle's seat and the legs may be slightly bent.
Special measures are required in order to safely place a premature or low-birth-weight baby in a car seat. To find out more, watch the video produced by the CHU Sainte Justine trauma service (in French only).
Given that children are safer in rear-facing car seats, it is recommended that they be used as long as possible.
You can secure your child in a front-facing seat once he or she:
That being said, you should ideally keep using the rear-facing child seat as long as your child does not exceed the weight or height limits indicated by the seat manufacturer.
Infant seats should be used only for travelling with an infant in a vehicle.
Car seats should never be used as cribs, because they are not safe for sleeping.
During the first few months of life, an infant should not be left sitting in a car seat for trips lasting more than one hour at a time.
If you are making a long car trip, take frequent breaks to change positions and to hold the baby in your arms.
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You should also check your vehicle owner’s manual to find out how much weight the UAS and the tether strap anchorage point can support. If the combined weight of the seat and child surpasses the UAS weight limit, the child seat can usually be secured with the seat belt instead.
Because of their harnesses, front-facing child seats offer better protection than booster seats. It is therefore preferable to continue to use front-facing seats until children reach the weight or height limits specified by the seat manufacturer.
Your child should not use a booster seat until he or she weighs at least 18 kg (40 lb).
The booster seat raises the child to ensure that the seat belt can be correctly adjusted so that it crosses over the middle of the shoulder (collarbone) and over the hips (pelvis).
It is recommended that you purchase a booster seat with a built-in backrest and headrest if the back of the vehicle seat is low or does not have a headrest to support the child's head in the event of a collision.
The vehicle's seat belt is all that is required to hold the seat and child in place. No additional straps should be used.
Some booster seats come equipped with a UAS, which should be used in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
When the seat belt is fastened, it should cross over the middle of the shoulder (the collarbone) and the hips (pelvis). The collarbone and pelvic bones are best able to absorb the impact in the event of an accident.
Never put the seat belt behind the child’s back or under the child's arm because in the event of a collision, the child could sustain serious injuries.
A child no longer needs a booster seat when both of the following conditions are met:
When the child's back is flat against the seat, his or her legs must be long enough that the child’s knees are bent over the edge of the seat. The child must be able to hold this position comfortably for the entire trip.
The seat belt must cross over the middle of the child's shoulder (over the collarbone) and over the child’s hips. It should not cross over the neck or abdomen.
As of April 2019, the law requires that children use booster seats until they are 145 cm tall or 9 years of age.
It is important to note, however, that children are not ready to wear just a seat belt if their legs are too short to bend over the edge of the seat, even if they are 145 cm tall or 9 years of age.
Children who are not tall enough will tend to slide under the seat belt to get comfortable. In that position, the seat belt presses against their necks and stomachs, which could lead to serious injuries to the spine or internal organs in the event of an accident.
Children aged 12 or younger: in the back seat
This is the safest place for them in a vehicle, since they are seated as far away as possible from the points of impact in the event of a head-on collision.
All accessories (e.g. strap covers, head support cushions) that are not sold with the car seat should not be used with the car seat. Because the manufacturer has not tested the car seat with these accessories, their interaction with the child in the event of a crash is unknown.
However, if the accessory is sold by the manufacturer along with the car seat, it can be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.
If a child's winter coat has not been sufficiently compressed, the straps will not be tight enough and will not restrain the child effectively in the event of a collision. The child could be hurt or thrown from the seat.
Each time you put your child in a car seat, make sure that your child is buckled in snugly by inserting a finger between the chest and the straps. If you have difficulty pushing your finger through, the straps are tight enough.
Check the adjustment at the hips and make sure that your child's coat doesn't bunch under the straps or behind his or her back.
Straps should be snug, in both warm and cold weather!
Some car seat manufacturers have specific requirements regarding winter coats. Comply with these requirements. Whatever the season, make sure you use the proper technique by checking the owner's manual.
Last update: April 11, 2021