Do I need to use car seats for children?

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA) states that if your child is under 8 years old, they must use a car seat based on the Ministry of Transportation guidelines. All drivers in Ontario are responsible for ensuring that their passengers under 16 are secured properly.

Selecting a Car Seat

Choosing a new car seat for your child may be a little overwhelming when there are many different brands, styles and sizes to pick from. You need to select a seat that works best for your child’s age and weight and is approved for use in Canada.

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act requires that children use different types of seats at different stages.

  • Infant rear-facing car seats are required until they are at least 9 kg but the guidelines recommend that children stay in the rear-facing position until they reach the manufacturer's recommended maximum weight and height limit.
  • Toddler forward-facing car seats are required once your child outgrows the rear-facing manufacturer’s limits which are between 9 kg and 18 kg.
  • Children’s booster seats are required to help position the adult seat belts, generally when children are between 18 kg and 36 kg, measure less than 145 cm, and are under the age of 8
  • Adult seat belts can be once your child meets one of the following:
    • is 8 years old, or
    • weighs 36 kg, or
    • measures more than 145 cm

Children under the age of 13 are not required to sit in the back seat in Ontario, however it is recommended. The safest place for them to be is away from active airbags.

Second-Hand or Used Car Seats

New car seats can be expensive. You consider reusing a car seat you already have or buying second-hand. There are a few things to keep in mind if you choose to do this.

  • Make sure that the car seat hasn’t passed its expiry date. Depending on the model, car seats generally last about five years.
  • If you are looking for a second-hand car seat, find out the history of the car seat. You should not use a car seat that’s been involved in an accident.
  • Make sure there are no safety recalls on the car seat before buying it and that it meets the current Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
  • You will need to be extra cautious when buying your car seat online or from outside of Canada, as these car seats may not meet current Canadian requirements.

Installing a Car Seat

For many vehicles the safest place is in the back seat, or in the second or third row of a minivan. If you are installing a car seat for the first time, you may want to consider contacting your local public health unit and ask about car seat clinics in your area. Car seat clinics can help you learn the way to properly install your car seat and make adjustments when needed.

The Ministry of Transportation has tips to help you when installing a car seat.

  • Install your seat at the correct angle
  • Use your body weight to tighten and fasten the seatbelt or lower Universal Anchorage System (UAS).
  • Use the harness slots and the chest clip to position the straps correctly.
  • Secure any tethers only to the anchor point(s) provided.

Does my child need a car seat in a taxi?

In Ontario, the law does not require that taxicabs provide a child car seat. When travelling with a child, you may need to provide your own child car seat or booster seat. This includes private car services, rideshare programs and ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft.

For More Information

  • Car Seat Safety – This webpage provides advice for parents on how to keep children safe while driving. From Transport Canada.
  • Choose the Right Child Car Seat – This webpage includes information and instructional videos on how to choose and install car seats. From the Ministry of Transportation.
  • Frequently Asked Questions - The Ministry of Transportation published answers to frequently asked questions about choosing the right car seat.
  • Safety Alerts and Notices for Child Car Seats - Transport Canada publishes both safety alerts and notices for caregivers about child car seat and booster seat safety.
Last updated: October 6, 2021 4001628