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Your complete guide to driving safely with infants and small children.

Jordan August 28, 2013
A mother securing her daughter into a car seat.
With all the known risks associated with driving, it’s become almost second nature for motorists to buckle up as soon as they get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, children don’t have this same instinct, so it’s up to us to ensure their safety.

Did you know that a properly installed car seat can reduce the risk of serious injury or death by as much as 71%? Even so, car seat clinics indicate that as many as 80% of car seats are installed improperly! Some of the most common reasons for this include: not tightening the seatbelt and harness enough and not properly using a tether strap when required.

It’s mandatory for anyone transporting children to make sure they’re properly secured in a child car seat or booster seat. By law, drivers are responsible for ensuring passengers under 16 years of age are properly secured. This applies to all caregivers, from babysitters to grandparents. Failing to do so may result in a $90 fine, plus two demerit points and a victim surcharge.

Here’s CAA’s guide to securing your child in a vehicle:


Newborn babies and infants require extra special protection. In a collision, properly installed rear-facing car seats can save your child’s life.

Infant car seats should face the back of the vehicle, rest on a 45-degree angle and move no more than 2.5 cm (1 in.) side-to-side or forward at the base. If necessary, use a towel or a foam bar (pool noodle) under the base of the child car seat to adjust the angle.

Harness straps should be slotted at or below a baby’s shoulders. You should not be able to fit more than one finger underneath the harness straps at the child’s collarbone. The chest clip should be flat against the chest at armpit level.


By law, a child can ride facing forward when they are over 9 kg (20 lb.) or more. All forward-facing car seats must use a tether strap. If your vehicle does not have a tether anchor in place, contact a dealership to have one installed.

To prevent the car seat from moving forward and causing injury in a collision, it is important to use the tether strap exactly as the manufacturer recommends. To install a forward-facing car seat, fasten the tether strap, and then use your body weight to tighten and fasten the seatbelt or Universal Anchorage System (UAS).

Pre-school to 8 years old.

Booster seats are required for children under the age of eight, weighing 18 kg or more but less than 36 kg (40-80 lbs) and who stand less than 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) tall.

A child can start using a seatbelt alone once any one of the following criteria is met:

  • Child turns eight years old
  • Child weighs 36 kg (80 lbs.)
  • Child is 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) tall


Seatbelts are designed for adults and older, larger children. Once your child can sit all the way against the vehicle seat back with legs bent comfortably over the edge of the seat, and with the shoulder belt flat across the shoulder and chest, he or she is ready to move from the booster seat to the vehicle seatbelt.

Make sure the shoulder strap lies across the child’s shoulder and the middle of the chest (not the neck or face), and the lap belt crosses over the hips (not the stomach).

Useful tips.

  • Use the right seat for the child’s weight and development. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for correct child car seat installation and use.
  • Be sure to secure the child correctly. Make sure harness straps are snug and tight. Use a tether strap with a forward-facing child car seat. Keep children away from all active air bags. Children under 13 years of age are safest in the back seat.
  • Use caution when buying or using a pre-owned child car seat. Buy new, or from someone you know, and check it carefully. Make sure the car seat has:
    • Instructions and all necessary hardware
    • Not been in a collision
    • A Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) sticker
    • Not expired or is not older than 10 years
    • No discoloured (stress) marks or cracks and the harness is not worn or torn

In closing.

When the child outgrows the maximum height and weight of his/her infant seat, you may require a convertible rear-facing seat until your child is ready to face forward. The law requires you to use a rear-facing car seat until the infant is at least 9 kilograms (20 lb.) Note that the law states the minimum requirement. It’s best to keep children in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least one year old or until they have reached the maximum height or weight limits of the rear-facing seat.

Learn more at the Ministry of Transportation website