Seatbelt – Child Safety

Seatbelt – Child Safety
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The motor vehicle driver is responsible for ensuring that all children under 16 years of age are properly secured in a motor vehicle. To be safely protected in a vehicle, children must be properly secured in a child car seat, booster seat or seatbelt, depending on their height, weight and/or age. Research shows that a correctly used child car seat can reduce the likelihood of injury or death by 75 percent.

Babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and primary-school aged children must travel in the appropriate child car seats or booster seats. Children under 13 years of age are safest in the back seat of a motor vehicle, away from any potential point of impact.

To effectively use a seat belt, a child must be able to sit with legs bent comfortably over the vehicle seat and with his or her back fully against the back of the vehicle seat. The lap belt must cross over the hips (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt must cross between the shoulder and the neck.


  • Motor vehicle drivers who fail to ensure that children in their vehicle are properly secured in a seat belt or child car seat could be charged and face a fine totalling $240 ($200 set fine, $35 victim surcharge, $5 court costs) and two demerit points, and risk injury to the child.
  • Passengers who are 16 years of age and older are responsible for buckling themselves up. If stopped by a police officer, passengers aged 16 and older must provide their name, address and date of birth to the officer. They can face fine of $240 ($200 set fine, $35 victim surcharge, $5 court costs) for not using or wearing their seat belt properly.

Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

Child car seats must meet Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). Buckles and straps must be fastened according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Newer vehicles that come equipped with a lower Universal Anchorage System (UAS) for securing a child car seat, do not require the use of a seatbelt. A booster seat requires a lap and shoulder belt combination.

Infants who weigh less than 9kg (20lbs.) must be buckled into a rear-facing child car seat attached to the vehicle by a seatbelt or the UAS strap. A rear-facing child car seat is always best installed in the back seat. Never put a rear-facing child car seat in a seating position that has an active airbag. If the airbag inflates, it could seriously injure the child.

Toddlers 9 to 18kg (20 to 40lbs.) must be buckled into a child car seat attached to the vehicle by a seatbelt or a UAS strap; the seat’s tether strap must also be attached to the vehicle’s tether anchor. Children weighing beyond 9kg (20lbs) may remain in a rear-facing child car seat if the car seat is designed to accommodate the child’s height and weight. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing a child car seat in your vehicle.

Booster seats provide 60 percent more protection than seatbelts alone. These must be used by pre-school and primary grade-aged children who have outgrown their forward-facing child car seat, are under the age of eight and weigh 18kg (40lbs.) or more but less than 36kg (80lbs.), and who are less than 145cm (4feet, 9inches) tall. Booster seats raise a child up so that the adult seatbelt works more effectively. The child’s head must be supported by the top of the booster, vehicle seat or headrest. You must use a booster seat with a lap/shoulder belt. The lap/shoulder belt should be worn so that the shoulder belt fits closely against the body, over the shoulder and across the center of the chest and the lap belt sits firmly against the body and across the hips. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing a booster seat in your vehicle, and secure the booster seat with a seatbelt when a child is not traveling in it, or remove it from the vehicle. If your vehicle has lap belts only, secure the child by the lap belt only. Never use a lap belt alone with a booster seat.

Children may begin wearing a seatbelt once they are able to wear it properly (a lap belt flat across the hips, shoulder belt across the centre of the chest and over the shoulder), and if any one of the following criteria is met:

  • the child turns eight years old;
  • the child weighs 36kg (80lbs) or more; or,
  • the child is 145cm (4feet 9inches) tall or taller.

Do not place a child in a seating position in front of an air bag that is not turned off. The safest place for a child under age 13 is in the back seat. Always secure loose objects in the vehicle with cargo nets or straps, or move them to the trunk to prevent them from injuring passengers in a collision or sudden stop. Correct installation of a child car seat is important for ensuring a child’s safety. Your local public health unit is a good resource for finding out how to properly install a child car seat, or visit a local car seat clinic where certified technicians will help you install the seat.

Note: Be careful if buying a used child car seat. Considerations should include ensuring the child car seat comes with complete manufacturer’s instructions and all necessary equipment; does not show signs of deterioration or damage; has never been in a collision; is not under recall; and has not exceeded its useful life expectancy as determined by the manufacturer.

Seatbelts and child safety

Seatbelts and child car seats reduce the risk of injury or death in collisions.

  • Seatbelts help keep you inside and in control of the vehicle during a collision. People who are thrown from a vehicle have a much lower chance of surviving a collision.
  • Seatbelts keep your head and body from hitting the inside of the vehicle or another person in the vehicle. When a vehicle hits a solid object, the people inside keep moving until something stops them. If you are not wearing your seatbelt, the steering wheel, windshield, dashboard or another person might be what stops you. This “human collision” often causes serious injury.
  • Fire or sinking in water is rare in collisions. If it does happen, seatbelts help keep you conscious, giving you a chance to get out of the vehicle.
  • In a sudden stop or swerve, no one can hold onto a child who is not in a seatbelt or child car seat. Infants or children who are not properly restrained can be thrown against the vehicle’s interior, collide with other people or be ejected.
  • When using a child car seat, make sure that the seat is tightly secured by the vehicle seatbelt or by the Universal Anchorage System (UAS) strap, and for a forward-facing car seat, ensure the tether strap is also used. When installing the child car seat, press one knee into the seat and use your body weight to push it into the vehicle seat, then tighten the seatbelt or the car seat UAS strap as much as possible. The installed child car seat should move no more than 2.5 cm (1 inch) where the seatbelt or UAS strap is routed through the child car seat.
  • Use a locking clip where needed to ensure the seatbelt stays locked into position and will not loosen during a collision. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual to see if you will need to use a locking clip.
  • If a rear-facing child car seat does not rest at the proper 45-degree angle, you can prop up the base of the seat with a towel or a Styrofoam bar (“pool noodle”). Eighty per cent of the base of a forward-facing car seat should be firmly supported by the vehicle seat.

For more information you can go to It is a comprehensive Guide to Child Car Seats where you can find answers to all your questions regarding the matter.

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