Best Practice

Everything you need to know about car seats, booster seats and seat belts, conveniently sized to fit on one piece of paper:

Car Seat Best Practice Cheat Sheet

Rear Facing Seats:

  •  Law says until 1 year old AND 22lbs as the minimum – must be walking sturdily as well
  •  Harness height must be AT or BELOW the shoulders
  • Harness tight (no horizontal pinch at the collarbone) – straps should lat flat and untwisted
  • Legs are fine to touch the back of the seat
  • Safest way to travel in the car – child should remain this way for as long as the seat allows
  • Outgrown by weight or when there is less than 1″ of hard shell above their head

Forward Facing Seats:

  •  Law says until at least 40lbs as the minimum – (most boosters have a min. age of 4 yrs also)
  • Harness height must be AT or ABOVE the shoulders
  • Harness tight (no horizontal pinch at the collarbone) ) – straps should lat flat and untwisted
  • Top tether MUST always be used with a forward facing seat
  •  Outgrown by weight OR when ears reach the top of the seat OR when shoulders are above top straps

Booster Seats:

  •  Law says child must weigh at least 40lbs consistently
  • MUST be mature enough to sit properly – around school age (check age and height mins. on seat)
  •  Not all boosters fit all kids – and some will outgrow their first booster and need an upgrade
  • Belt should be low on thighs and shoulder belt between neck and shoulder – adult check every time
  •  Should be used until child passes the ‘5 Step Test’

Adult Seat Belts: The 5 Step Test
1. The child can sit all the way back against the vehicle seat
2. The child’s knees bend comfortably over the edge of the vehicle seat without slouching
3. The lap portion of the belt fits snugly across the top of the thighs and doesn’t ride up on the stomach
4. The shoulder belt goes across the chest bone and the middle of the shoulder, NOT across the neck,
NEVER behind the back and NEVER tucked under their arm.
5. The child can sit properly for the entire trip


    • Read your manuals – both your car seat manual and your vehicle manual
    • There should be less than 1″ of movement at the belt path (different paths for rear or forward facing)
    • Seat belt OR UAS/LATCH clips – not both. (most vehicles do not support UAS in middle seat)
    • Seat belt should be locked either by pulling it out OR using a locking latch plate OR a locking clip
    • Nothing between the child’s seat and the vehicle seat.
    •  May use either 1-3 pool noodles or a tightly rolled towel to achieve correct angle for rear facing


  • Use ONLY what came with the seat (NO head huggers or bunting bags) – Shower cap style covers ok
  • No snowsuits – bulky clothing can compress in a crash, making the straps too loose and risking ejection
  • Car seats expire – check the expiration date on your car seat or booster
  • Beware when buying used – do you trust the source? Do you know if it’s been in a crash?
  • Transport Canada recommends that children 12 and under ride in the backseat whenever possible.

Atlantic Car Seat Safety – Feb 2012

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