The Ultimate Guide to Ontario Booster Seat Rules

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 17 Jul 2023

A child's car seat securely fastened with the seat belt

In Ontario, keeping your child safe while traveling in a vehicle could mean life or death. Every year, Transport Canada reports that more than 5,000 children under the age of 14 get injured or killed in collisions. With strict regulations in place, we make it easy to understand and adhere to Ontario’s booster seat laws. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the significance of booster seats and provide an overview of the related laws in Ontario. Further, we’ll review choosing the right booster seat, proper installation and address FAQs so you have all the information you need to keep your child safe.

Understanding Ontario’s Booster Seat Laws

When it comes to child passenger safety, booster seats play a vital role. These specially designed seats provide crucial support and protection for children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seat but are not yet tall enough to safely use a seat belt alone.

Booster seats suit children who have outgrown the best car seats and weigh at least 18 kg (40 pounds). A booster seat raises children so they sit comfortably with their backs supported and their knees bent over the edge of the seat. This marks the third phase in safely transporting children, beginning with rear-facing car seats for babies and infants, then forward-facing ones for toddlers.

Type of seatPassengerWeightHeight
Rear-facing car seatBaby to infantUp to 9 kg (20 pounds)Not relevant
Forward-facing car seatToddler9 to 18 kg (20 to 40 pounds)Not relevant
Booster seatChildren18 to 36 kg (40 to 80 pounds)Less than 145 cm (4-foot-9)
Seatbelt onlyChildren age 8 plus80 pounds plus145 cm (4-foot-9 plus)

Booster seats elevate a child, ensuring that the seat belt fits properly across their body. This reduces the risk of severe injury in the event of a collision. However, you cannot legally use seat belts alone until children turn eight, weigh 80 pounds or stand 145 centimetres tall.

But what exactly is the importance of booster seats? Well, let’s delve deeper into the topic.

The Importance of Booster Seats

Booster seats bridge the gap for the phase between a forward-facing car seat and using a seat belt alone, according to Canada’s car seat rules. The booster seat raises the child’s seating position, allowing the seat belt to fit snugly across their lap and shoulder.

Without a booster seat, the seat belt may ride up too high on a child’s stomach or neck. As a result, this can cause discomfort and potentially serious injuries in the event of a crash. 

Additionally, booster seats come with side-impact protection, adding an extra layer of safety in the event of a side collision. This reduces the risk of head, neck and spinal injuries.

Now that we understand the importance of booster seats, let’s dive into the specifics of Ontario’s booster seat legislation.

The Basics of Ontario’s Booster Seat Legislation

Ontario’s booster seat laws require drivers to ensure that children get properly secured in the correct child car seat or booster seat. That also applies to drivers who visit the province, not just those who live in Ontario.

Further, safety experts highly recommend using a booster seat for as long as possible. Children may not reach the height, weight or maturity level required to safely use a seat belt alone until well past age eight. Therefore, drivers should continue using a booster seat until a child meets all the necessary criteria.

However, exceptions apply to children traveling in cabs, buses and ambulances or vintage cars that only have lap belts. For children with special needs, parents can use EZ-On safety vests or a Snug Seat Hippo (for kids in casts).

Now that we have a better understanding of the legislation, let’s discuss the potential penalties for non-compliance.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Failing to comply with Ontario’s booster seat legislation can have serious consequences. The primary concern, of course, is the safety of your child. However, there are also legal and financial implications for not adhering to the law.

If caught breaking the law, drivers can face a fine of $240 and two demerit points on their driver’s record. These penalties serve as a deterrent to ensure that parents and caregivers prioritize the safety of their young passengers.

Remember, the financial impact is not the primary concern. The safety and well-being of your child should always be paramount. By following Ontario’s car seat laws, you take an important step towards protecting your child in the event of a collision.

Choosing the Right Booster Seat

When it comes to the safety of your child during car rides, choosing the right booster seat really counts. With a wide range of options available in the market, you may feel overwhelmed. However, by considering some key factors, you can make an informed decision that will give you peace of mind.

There are two main types of booster seats: high-back and backless. High-back booster seats provide better head and neck support, especially in vehicles without headrests. This model suits younger children who may still need that extra support. On the other hand, backless booster seats move more easily from one car to another. Moreover, they suit older children who have outgrown the need for head and neck support.

Aside from the type, you should look for several features in a booster seat. Adjustable height allows you to customize the seat to match your child’s growth. This ensures that the booster seat continues to provide optimal safety as your child gets taller. Side-impact protection adds extra cushioning in the event of a side collision, reducing the risk of injury to your child.

On the other hand, a seat that is easy to install will save you time and frustration. Above all, this feature ensures that you can quickly and securely fasten the seat in your vehicle. Additionally, don’t overlook comfortable padding. A booster seat with sufficient padding will provide a cozy and enjoyable experience for your child during car rides.

Top-Rated Booster Seats in Ontario

Now that you know how to shop for booster seats, let’s explore some of the top-rated options available in Ontario. These booster seats have earned high praise for their safety features, ease of use and durability. Consequently, they make excellent choices for your child’s protection on every journey.

Chicco Gofit Belt-Positioning Backless Booster

This backless booster seat comes with Ergoboost double padding designed to keep your little rider comfortable. The Chicco Gofit Belt-Positioning Backless Booster armrests integrate lap belt guides to securely fasten in place. From parents, it earns 4.8 out of 5 stars.

With cupholders that double as handles, you can easily switch it between family vehicles. As a bonus, it has washable fabrics to clean up those juice and cereal spills. 

Graco TurboBooster Highback Booster Seat

This high-back model went through stringent testing and surpasses Canadian safety standards. As a result, it proves it could withstand twice as much pressure as required in a crash and still hold its structural integrity. 

When it comes to side impacts, the Graco TurboBooster Highback Booster Seat also performed well. It also comes with a five-point harness and made Amazon’s best-seller list with 4.5 stars out of five.

Diono Cambria 2 XL

This model easily converts from a high-back booster to a backless booster seat so you get the best of both worlds. It has an ultra-wide design and can raise to six headrest positions so kids can grow into it and ride safely for years.

For head protection, the Diono Cambria 2 XL has robust support, reinforced side impact protection. Its designers created latch connectors that make it easy to quickly tighten and secure the seat within your vehicle. At 4.7 stars out of five, it also has storage compartments for snacks and toys

Proper Installation and Use of Booster Seats

Installing and using a booster seat correctly assures your child’s safety. When it comes to your beloved child, you should leave no room for error. Installing and using a booster seat correctly protects your little one in a collision. By following the manufacturer’s instructions and taking necessary precautions, you can provide your child with the utmost safety and comfort.

Step-by-Step Booster Seat Installation Guide

  1. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
  2. Ensure your vehicle’s seat belt can be securely fastened.
  3. Place the booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
  4. Position the seat belt through the proper guide on the booster seat.
  5. Securely fasten the seat belt.
  6. Check to see if the seat belt fits snugly across your child’s shoulder and lap, with no slack.

Installing a booster seat may seem like a simple task, but it requires attention to detail.
First, reading the manufacturer’s instructions as different booster seats may have specific requirements. Second, confirm that your vehicle’s seat belt works well and fastens securely. Once you have confirmed these factors, you can proceed with placing the booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle.

Proper positioning of the seat belt ensures your child’s safety. Make sure to thread the seat belt through the designated belt guide on the booster seat for a secure fit. Once you fasten the seat belt, check that it fits snugly across your child’s shoulder and lap. There should be no slack in the seat belt, as this can compromise the effectiveness of the booster seat.

Ensuring Correct Seat Belt Positioning

Proper seat belt positioning makes a big difference. So, make sure the shoulder belt rests across the middle of the chest and shoulder, NOT on the neck or arm. The lap belt should sit low across the hips, NOT across the abdomen.

Ideally, the shoulder belt should fit across the middle of your child’s chest and shoulder, avoiding the neck or arm. Thus, in a crash, the force of impact in a collision gets distributed across the strongest parts of the body. This tip also prevents internal injuries and provides better stability during sudden stops or collisions.

When to Move Your Child Out of a Booster Seat

Ontario’s regulations aim to ensure that your child is adequately protected in the event of a collision. Transitioning too soon can compromise your child’s safety, as premature removal of the booster seat can increase the risk of injury.

Naturally, as a parent, you want to see your child grow and reach new milestones. However, when it comes to their safety, prioritize caution and follow the recommended guidelines. Keeping your child in a booster seat until they meet the necessary requirements is a small sacrifice. Ultimately, this decision can have a significant impact on their well-being. 

Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications