When used correctly, child safety seats save lives and reduce the severity of injuries. But research has found that across Canada, misuse rates range from 44-81% for car seats and 30-50% for booster seats!

Here are some tips for making sure your car seat or booster seat is installed properly.

GENERAL

  • Make sure the child seat has a Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) sticker on it. The CMVSS is a National Safety Mark that is proof the child car seat meets Canadian safety standards. You can see what the mark looks like on the Transport Canada website.
  • Read the directions that came with the child seat. If you cannot find them, you may be able to find them online.
  • Make sure your child is below the maximum weight and height limits for the child seat.
  • Make sure the child seat fits your child and your vehicle and is easy for you to use. If possible, try it in your vehicle before purchasing or make sure it can be returned or exchanged if it doesn't fit.
  • Read the child seat section of your vehicle manual. If you do not have a physical copy, you can look it up online.
  • Check whether the model of child seat you're considering has ever been recalled.
  • It is not recommended to buy a used child seat. Never use a child seat that has been in a collision.

REAR-FACING CAR SEAT

  1. Always install in the back seat. The front seat has an airbag, which is very powerful and can hurt a child when it inflates.
  2. Confirm (in the safety seat and vehicle manuals) whether your car seat should be installed using a universal anchorage system (UAS) or using a seat belt.
  3. Check your vehicle manual for the location of the UAS lower anchor bars or for how to lock the seat belt to use with a car seat. If the seat belt does not lock, use a belt lock or locking clip.
  4. Make sure the UAS belt or seat belt goes through the rear-facing belt path on the car seat (or removable base) and is clipped or buckled up.
  5. Push down on the car seat (or removable base) and pull the UAS belt or seat belt tight.
  6. The car seat should move less that 2.5cm (1") in any direction. If it's loose, push down again on the car seat and tighten the belt - using a knee to push on the car seat can help.
  7. Check the harness for a good fit. The chest clip should be at the level of the child's armpits. The harness straps should be snug - if you can slide a finger underneath but can't pinch a fold in the harness strap, the fit is good.

FORWARD-FACING CAR SEAT

  1. Always install in the back seat. The front seat has an airbag, which is very powerful and can hurt a child when it inflates.
  2. Confirm (in the safety seat and vehicle manuals) whether your car seat should be installed using a universal anchorage system (UAS) or using a seat belt.
  3. Check your vehicle manual for the location of the UAS lower anchor bars or for how to lock the seat belt to use with a car seat. If the seat belt does not lock, use a belt lock or locking clip.
  4. Also check your vehicle manual for the location of the top tether anchor.
  5. Make sure the UAS belt or seat belt goes through the forward-facing belt path on the car seat (or removable base) and is clipped or buckled up.
  6. Push down on the car seat (or removable base) and pull the UAS belt or seat belt tight. Hook the car seat's top tether strap to the tether anchor and pull tight.
  7. The car seat should move less that 2.5cm (1") in any direction. If it's loose, push down again on the car seat and tighten the belt. Then tighten the top tether strap again.
  8. Check the harness for a good fit. The chest clip should be at the level of the child's armpits. The harness straps should be snug - if you can slide a finger underneath but can't pinch a fold in the harness strap, the fit is good.

BOOSTER SEAT

  1. A booster seat must be used with a lap-shoulder seat belt.
  2. If the spot in the vehicle where the booster seat will be installed does not have a head rest, choose a high back booster seat to provide the child with head and neck support. If the spot does have a head rest, choose either a high back or a backless booster seat.
  3. Always install in the back seat. The front seat has an airbag, which is very powerful and can hurt a child when it inflates.
  4. When sitting in the booster seat, the child should be able to sit up straight with their back against the seat back and their knees bent over the edge of the booster seat.
  5. Check the seat belt for a good fit. The shoulder belt should cross the child's chest (not their neck) and the lap belt should cross their hips (not their stomach). If the booster seat has a shoulder belt guide, make sure to use it to get a good fit for the shoulder belt.



LEARN MORE

Find a YES Test checklist and tips for buying for each type of child safety seat from Alberta Health.

Read more about choosing and installing child safety seats and child safety seat recalls at Transport Canada.