The Importance of Child Seats

Written by: Dale Orlando

Child seats are important safety precautions that can save lives and prevent serious injury to young ones in motor vehicle collisions. In Canada, there are various regulations regarding the use of child safety seats. First, they must bear the National Safety Mark label in order to be used in this country. This label indicates that the seat complies with Canadian regulations and standards, and is legal for use here.

Our safety standards differ from the United States’ and other countries’, so child and booster seats that will be used in Canada must be purchased in Canada. Further, every child seat has an expiration date, which designates the length of time that it can be safely used. There are several different laws regarding how and when to use child seats, regulated by the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.

Child Car Seats for Infants

Under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, infants must be secured in a rear-facing car seat until they weigh at least 20 lbs. However, S.E.A.T.S. for Kids, an organization that advocates child auto safety, recommends that babies use a rear-facing seat for as long as reasonably possible. Since infants have large, heavy heads in relation to their body size, and the bones in their spine have not yet ossified, they are prone to head and neck injuries. S.E.A.T.S. suggests that children are seated in rear-facing seats until they reach the maximum height and weight stated on the car seat label.

Child Car Seats for Toddlers

Under the Highway Traffic Act, young children must legally use a forward-facing car seat until they weigh 40 lbs. Forward-facing seats differ from booster seats because they contain their own 5-point harness, rather than using the car’s seatbelt. This ensures that smaller children are properly secured. Although children can be switched to a booster seat once they reach 40 lbs, parents are advised to use their own discretion. Children should remain in a car seat until they are tall enough that the seatbelt will be accurately positioned on their body. Many 5-point restraints can be used for children up to 65 lbs.

Booster Seats for Children

The law states that children must remain in a booster seat until they are:

  • 8 years old OR
  • 80 lbs OR
  • 4 feet 9 inches tall.

However, even if a child has reached one of these checkpoints, it is important to consider whether they really can safely ride without a booster seat. In general, children can move out of a booster seat if:

  • they can sit all the way back against the vehicle seat
  • their knees bend comfortably over the edge of the seat
  • the lap portion of the seat belt fits snugly over the thighs and does not ride up the stomach
  • the shoulder belt goes across the chest bone and middle of the shoulder and not across the neck
  • the child can sit properly for the entire trip

This 5-step test should be done in every vehicle, because seat sizes can vary radically from car to car.

Properly securing a child in a car seat is the law. It reduces the risk of serious injury or death in a motor vehicle collision. It is also your legal responsibility. Drivers  must ensure that children under the age of 16 are buckled and using the appropriate child or booster seats for their size and weight. Failure to do so can result in a fine of $240 and 2 demerit points.

As a personal injury lawyer in Toronto, there are few things more disturbing than seeing children who have been hurt because they were not properly buckled in the correct seat. For more information, refer to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation driver’s handbook.

Dale Orlando


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