Installing and using a child car seat, booster seat, or seat belt

From Transport Canada

Child car seats make road travel safer. They keep your child in place so that in a sudden stop or crash your child has increased protection. This reduces the chances of serious injury or even death.

Many car seats are not installed properly. See the information on this page, or attend a child car seat clinic.

There are four stages of child car seat and seat belt use for children. Check your provincial or territorial regulations for restrictions on child car seat and booster seat use. Also, ensure that your child fits within the weight and height restrictions for your model of seat.

On this page

Stage 1: Rear-facing seats

Babies have large heads and weak necks. Rear-facing car seats are angled backwards because babies need extra support while riding in a car. A rear-facing seat with a snug harness will support your baby's neck, and help protect your baby in a sudden stop or crash.

Keep your child in the rear-facing seat for as long as they can fit in the weight/height range of the seat.

For more information, see Keep Kids Safe - Stage 1: Rear-facing seats.

Note: do not use a child car seat as a crib, or leave children unattended in a car seat. Read more safety tips in Infant Car Seats are Not Cribs.

Stage 2: Forward-facing seats

Forward-facing car seats are for older children with stronger back and neck muscles.

Keep your child in the forward-facing seat until he or she grows out of it. A forward-facing car seat spreads the force of a sudden stop or crash over the strongest parts of your child's body.

For more information, see Keep Kids Safe – Stage 2: Forward-facing seats.

Stage 3: Booster seats

Booster seats are designed to allow seat belt use by children who no longer need forward-facing seats. The booster seat positions a child so that the seat belt is correctly located on the lap and shoulder.

Don't hurry to move your child to a booster seat. As long as your child is within the weight and height range for his or her forward-facing seat, and fits the car seat properly, it is safest to use that seat as long as possible.

For more information, see Keep Kids Safe – Stage 3: Booster seats.

Stage 4: Seat belts

Seat belts are used when children are tall enough to use a seat belt that is properly positioned over their lap and shoulder without needing a booster seat.

Don't hurry. It is best to keep your child in a booster seat as long as possible. If your child has outgrown his or her booster seat, you must check that a seat belt can fit correctly before switching to using only the seat belt.

For more information, see Keep Kids Safe – Stage 4: Seat belts.

Contact us for more child car safety information

Transport Canada
Motor Vehicle Safety
330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N5


  • 1-800-333-0371
  • 613-998-8616 (Ottawa area)

Fax: 1-613-998-4831


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