Frequently Asked Questions: Child Seat Regulations
As of January 1st, 2012, child seats and booster seats were mandated to meet updated requirements. A 19-month transition period, prior to this date, allowed manufacturers to make the necessary design modifications to their seats and testing equipment while continuing to supply the Canadian market with restraint systems that provide a high level of safety.
Why were the regulations updated?
The regulations for car seats (Motor Vehicle Restraint Systems and Booster Seats Safety Regulations) were rewritten to align with the United States on many issues and to incorporate some new and unique Canadian testing requirements. These regulations ensure an appropriate minimum level of safety for children while using the most up-to-date technology available for testing.
What is the difference between the updated regulations and the old ones?
The major changes incorporated in the new Canadian regulations included:
- a lap/shoulder seat belt testing requirement for all types of car seats, since lap/shoulder belts have been commonly found in most vehicles for several years;
- changes to child seats' dynamic testing to adopt most of the U.S. testing parameters, including using the United States acceleration corridor and their performance criteria;
- changing the definition of an infant from up to 9 kg, to up to 10 kg;
- an increase in the maximum allowable weight limit of child seats from 22 kg to 30 kg;
- an introduction of dynamic testing requirements for booster seats;
- extending the limitation on rebound to all rear facing child seats; and
- the allowance of harnesses to be certified for usage on school buses for special needs children.
What are the differences between the Canadian regulations and the regulations in the United States?
The regulations were rewritten to align with the United States on many issues and to incorporate some new and unique Canadian testing requirements.
The differences between the Canadian and U.S. regulations include:
- The need for labels, information, and instructions to be provided in both of Canada’s official languages;
- The minimum weight requirement to use a booster seat remains at 18kg (versus 13.6 kg in the U.S.);
- The mandatory use of a tether strap for front-facing child seats;
- A mandatory inversion test for both infant and child seats;
- A unique booster deflection test;
- The lap/shoulder seat belt testing requirement for all types of car seats;
- The extension of the limitation on rebound to all rear facing child seats; and
- Energy absorbing material requirements.
Why were these regulations created?
These regulations were originally created in the 1980s because the vehicle seat belt systems (which are meant for adult occupants) were not designed to protect children in the event of a collision. Requirements were also added to address special situations. For example, standards for restraint systems for infants with special needs were created partly because while children are safest when sitting at a certain seat back angle, infants with special needs need to lie flat on their backs.
Do I need to replace my car seat?
It is not necessary to replace a child seat as a result of these recent changes. However, the child seat should be replaced if it was in a car that was involved in a collision. Even if your child wasn’t in the child seat when the collision occurred, the child seat could be damaged. Child seats have expiry dates - so make sure you replace yours when it expires. If the shell or materials on the seat are ripped or damaged, replace it. The previous standards had provided a high level of safety for children for many years and will continue to provide protection throughout the useful life of a child restraint. It is important to note that if you own a car seat or booster seat made before January 1, 2012, under Health Canada's Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, you may not be able to advertise, sell, or give it (including lending) away because it may not meet the latest requirements set out by Health Canada.
Why do car seats have expiry dates?
Although expiry dates, or useful life dates, are not required by regulation, all manufacturers of children’s restraint systems provide them. Manufacturers indicate (stamp) an expiry or useful life date because over time:
- frequent use and exposure to sunlight can damage and weaken plastic;
- safe-use labels on the products fade or become hard to read;
- instruction manuals have likely been lost;
- food, cleaners, drinks and other materials that have been spilled or used on webbing, buckles, adjusters and other parts may prevent them from working safely;
- the history or condition of the car seat or booster cushion becomes hard to check (was it in a collision, was it stored in a place or in a way that caused damage to parts, etc.?);
- safety regulations and standards may have changed, so improved products may now be on the market; and
- second or subsequent owners may not get product safety recall notices if problems arise.
The provincial and territorial laws state that children's car seats and booster seats (if applicable) must be certified to Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and must be used according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you don't follow the instructions or if you use them past their expiry or useful life dates, you may be putting your child’s safety at risk and you may be found guilty of breaking the law. People should not use children’s car seats and booster cushions past their expiry or useful life date.
Are there unsafe child seats in the market?
All seats that are on the Canadian market must bear theNational Safety Mark attesting to the fact that the authorized manufacturer is certifying that the seat meets the prescribed Canadian safety standards. Transport Canada monitors the manufacturers’ testing and certification programs through its own independent compliance-testing program. Transport Canada does not endorse individual products, nor does it rank or rate them against each other as all seats of a particular kind must achieve the same minimum level of performance, as referenced in the regulations. The level of safety provided by a seat ultimately depends on the unique conditions of a collision, including the appropriate use and proper installation of the seat using the available restraint systems (belts, anchorages, etc.) of the vehicle.
Transport Canada continues to examine ways to improve the level of safety provided by existing standards through the Department’s research program. If the department sees an opportunity to enhance the safety of Canadian products regulated under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, we then work with our international partners in an effort to create harmonized regulations, so that seat manufacturers can offer very similar, updated, compliant seats in multiple markets. This keeps the seats affordable for Canadians.
What is the National Safety Mark?
The National Safety Mark (NSM) is the property of the Government of Canada and its use is authorized by the Minister of Transport to manufacturers and/or importers of new vehicles and vehicle restraint systems offered for sale in Canada. Transport Canada requires the manufacturers and/or importers that are authorized to affix the mark, to have the capability to certify their vehicle or restraint system production to comply with the regulations under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
NSM sample - the unique number assigned to a company is to appear in the center of the NSM.
Where can I find out more information on car seats?
Information on car seats and the stages of car seat use can be found on the Transport Canada web site at http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/motorvehiclesafety/safedrivers-childsafety-car-time-stages-1083.htm