Ontarian drivers with children under eight must purchase a booster seat by law. However, picking the right booster seat can take time, as many options are available. In addition, there are stages, measurements, and requirements to consider.
Using the wrong booster seat doesn’t just get you in trouble with the law – it can also risk your child’s safety. If you’re confused about what type of car seat to get and how to install it, this guide is for you.
This article will take you through the three car seat stages, Ontario car seat laws, and tips for keeping your child safe on the road.
Ontario Booster Seat Rules: The Three Stages
There are three stages of protection when using a booster seat for your child:
Stage One: Rear-Facing Seat
Rear-facing seats place children with their backs to the driver, facing the rear window. Ontario law requires stage one seating for newborn children until they reach 20 pounds, as it provides optimal support for their neck and head.
Even past the required period, keeping your child in a stage one seat until they outgrow it is the safest option. If your child outgrows their seat before reaching your area’s minimum age and weight requirements, you’re legally obliged to use a convertible rear-facing seat.
Stage Two: Forward-Facing Seat
A forward-facing seat orients your child in the same position as the rest of the passengers and comes with a five-point harness for security. A stage two seat is required for children weighing between 20 and 65 pounds.
Parents must install a forward-facing seat with a rear tether strap to keep it secure in case of an accident.
Stage Three: Booster Seat
While booster seats don’t provide the same protection as a rear or forward-facing car seat, it ensures that the seat belt follows the appropriate path.
A booster seat will keep the shoulder strap in place and prevent it from climbing up the child’s neck. It will also ensure that the lap belt doesn’t hike up to the child’s torso, instead falling across the hips. Because booster seats don’t employ secure straps, you must ensure your child doesn’t tug or pull at the belt. If you have a rowdy child, you may be better off placing them in a five-point harness.
If your child no longer needs a booster seat, note the following considerations regarding seatbelts:
- Children below 13 must be seated in the rear.
- Parents must equip each child with a seatbelt.
- Parents must place shoulder straps across the middle of the chest and the lap belt across the hips.
- Parents must ensure the shoulder straps are not under their child’s arm or behind their back.
Booster Seat Requirements in Ontario
Protection stages aren’t the only thing to consider when purchasing a booster seat in Ontario. Below are a few standard rules and requirements that apply to Canadian drivers:
- Children can only sit up front at a certain age. If a child is too young or small, dashboard-mounted airbags can prove fatal in an accident. The only legally permitted exception for allowing a child to sit up front is if your vehicle has no backseat. Modern vehicles without back seats often have sensors that detect a child’s weight and disable airbags accordingly.
- You can only buy car seats locally. Canadian booster seat laws may differ from others, so if you purchase a car seat from abroad, it may not adhere to local regulations.
- Purchasing a secondhand car seat isn’t recommended. Buying a used booster seat may not be a good idea unless you can guarantee the upholstery isn’t expired or worn out. If you aren’t aware of the product’s history, you can’t be sure its compression foam and parts are in good shape.
- You shouldn’t lay a newborn down to sleep. While keeping your infant upright may not be the most comfortable position, laying them down flat can be incredibly dangerous.
- Avoid buckling your child into their seat in heavy winter gear. Heavy winter gear can hurt or crush your child in an accident.
- Review provincial laws. Car seat requirements may vary across Canada. When in transit, be mindful of regional regulations and comply with them as closely as possible.
- Position your child in the middle seat of the back row. If you only have one child, this position is the safest.
Remember, booster seat laws are there to keep you and your family safe. If you get into an accident, refer to our guide to determine your next steps. In addition, you can ensure your vehicle meets road regulations – check out our safety inspection guide for more information.
Car Seat Laws for Transporting Children with Special Needs
Children with special needs may require alternative seats and restraints. When transporting a child with special needs, your vehicle setup must comply with federal safety standards that include the following:
- Car beds: Only for premature infants under 37 weeks or low birth weight children under 5.5 pounds
- Snug Seat Hippo: Only for children in casts
- EZ-On Vest: Only for children above two years old who weigh between 20 and 168 pounds and:
- Have a developmental disability
- Are in a cast
- Have poor trunk control
- Modified EZ-On Vest: Only for children between two and 12 years old who weigh between 20 and 100 pounds and must travel lying down
When Can My Child Stop Using a Booster Seat in Ontario?
A child can stop using a booster seat by age eight in Ontario or when they surpass 145 cm. Transport Canada doesn’t recommend allowing a child under 13 to sit in the passenger seat.
Booster Seat Fines and Penalties
Ontario law requires all children under 16 to wear a seatbelt, while all children under eight must be secured in the appropriate car seat. Failing to adhere to car seat laws in Ontario can result in a fine worth $240 and two demerit points on your driving record.
Learn more about how car seat violations can result in demerit points.
Are There Exemptions to Car Seat Laws in Ontario?
There are a few exemptions to car seat laws under the following circumstances:
- A taxi transporting individuals for hire (unless carrying children for personal reasons or while under contract with an educational establishment)
- Buses or other public vehicles transporting individuals for hire
- Qualified ambulances under the Highway Traffic Act
- Vehicles equipped only with lap belts
How to Fit a Booster Seat Properly
No two car seats are the same, so assembly may differ. Always follow manufacturer instructions as closely as possible when installing a booster seat in your car.
Follow these steps when installing a rear or forward-facing car seat for your child:
- Place the booster seat away from the airbags in the middle of the back seat.
- Rear-facing seats have level indicators on the side or base. Recline your seat according to this number.
- Run the universal anchor system (UAS) through the car seat’s belt path. Ensure there is no more than an inch of allowance along the belt path.
- If using a rear-facing car seat, feed the harness straps through the slot below your child’s shoulders. If using a forward-facing car seat, feed the harness straps through the space above your child’s shoulders. Ensure that the straps aren’t twisted or folded.
- Fasten the top tether strap to anchor a forward-facing seat to the car. You’ll find this strap on the rear end of the seat.
- Tighten and adjust the straps and harnesses whenever you place your child in their seat. Movement and shuffling can loosen them in transit.
Regular Booster Seat
Once your child has outgrown their car seat, you can transition them into a booster seat. Transport Canada recommends using a booster seat with a lap and shoulder seatbelt.
Follow these steps when installing your booster seat:
- Place the booster seat in the back, facing away from the airbag.
- Adjust the lap and shoulder straps so they fall across your child’s shoulders and don’t hike up to the neck or face.
- Ensure the lap belt rests across the hips and not the stomach. Avoid using seat belt adjusters.
- Support your child’s head by aligning it with the vehicle seat or headrest.
Drive Safe With MyChoice
Using a car or booster seat for your child isn’t just a legal requirement – it’s also imperative for keeping your child safe when you drive.
Are you looking for the right insurance for your family vehicle? MyChoice can match you up with the best policy.