Stage 3: Booster Seats

Keep Kids Safe - Stage 3: Booster Seats
[PDF, 379 KB]

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 ranges for his or her forward-facing seat and fits the car seat properly, it is safest to use that car seat as long as possible.

Install your booster seat

Always install the booster seat in the back seat of your vehicle. This places your child as far away as possible from your vehicle’s front air bags if they inflate during a crash.

There are different ways to install a booster seat. Read your vehicle owner’s manual and booster seat user guide to learn how. A correctly installed booster seat should keep the lap and shoulder belts in place across your child’s hips, chest and shoulders. Be sure to carefully follow the directions for routing the vehicle seat belt when using the booster seat.

Note: If you are using a low-backed booster, make sure your child has support from either the vehicle seat or vehicle headrest to at least the middle of his or her ears. This support is important to protect your child’s head and neck in a crash.

How to buckle up your child the right way

If your booster seat has a back, make sure that the height is adjusted according to the booster seat user guide installation instructions.

If there is a seat belt guide, make sure that it is adjusted according to the booster seat user guide installation instructions

Make sure the shoulder belt rests centered on your child’s shoulder, and never on the neck or arm, or under the arm. Make sure there is no slack in the shoulder belt for the duration of your trip.

The lap belt should be snug against your child’s hips, and not on their stomach.

Important tips

  • Always consult your vehicle owner’s manual and booster seat user guide prior to installation.
  • Always use a lap belt and a shoulder belt with a booster seat.
  • Always buckle up an empty booster seat (or take it out of your vehicle) so it doesn’t become a projectile that could hurt someone in a crash or sudden stop.
  • Items that did not come with your new booster seat may not be safe to use. Contact the booster seat manufacturer and ask if these items are safe to use with your new car seat.
  • Leave as much space as possible between the booster seat and the front seat of your vehicle.
  • Read your provincial/territorial regulations for details as to booster seat use.
  • If you are not sure that you have installed your booster seat correctly, there may be a car seat clinic in your community that can help.
  • Do not leave loose items in your vehicle during a trip, as they may hit and hurt someone in a sudden stop.
  • When using bulky winter clothing, whenever possible route the vehicle seat belt underneath the jacket to ensure that the lap belt is tight on the child’s hips.

When should you move your child from a booster seat to a seat belt?

Your child must be able to sit up straight, with his or her back against the back of your vehicle’s seat. Your child’s legs should be able to hang over the seat without slouching. Slouching makes the lap belt move up over the stomach when it should be over the hips. The shoulder belt should rest on your child’s shoulder, never on the neck or arm. For more information, see Stage 4.

If your child can’t sit in the right position or the vehicle seat belt does not fit properly, he or she is still too short and should stay in a booster seat for a while longer. If your child grows out of their booster seat before they are ready to use only a seat belt, there may be another booster seat that fits your child.

When to replace a booster seat

  • Booster seats have expiry dates, so make sure you replace and dispose of yours when it expires.
  • Always replace and dispose of a booster seat that was in a vehicle that was involved in a collision. Even if the booster seat was empty, it may have been damaged.
  • Contact the manufacturer to check whether you should replace the seat if the shell or webbing of the seat are torn or damaged.

Keep Kids Safe - Stage 3: Booster Seats
(PDF, 379 KB)

If you need more information on road safety, please contact us by email at or call toll free 1-800-333-0371 (Ottawa area 613-998-8616).

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