Car Seat Safety Guidelines – A PSA

I don’t generally do public safety announcements.  I guess the closest thing I’ve ever done to a PSA is when I wrote about my parenting fail of not realizing that pacifier sizes exist for safety reasons.  However, since this is child safety month and it wasn’t all that long ago that Kate Middleton got hammered over car seat safety guidelines, this seems like a really good time to review.

Car Seat Safety Guidelines - A PSA (Cloth Diaper Addicts)Car seat safety guidelines and car seat safety laws are not the same thing.  The car seat safety guidelines are suggestions made by a number of agencies.  In the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics makes recommendations for guidelines.  However, car seat safety laws are state matters and may vary by state.  In Canada, there are suggested guidelines, but, again, the laws will vary by province or territory.  (I can’t speak about the laws of any other nation; I’m limiting myself to countries where I’ve lived.)

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children be left in the rear facing position as long as possible, but at least until age two.  The reason for this is because of the strength of the neck, the weight of the head, and the ability to sustain a crash.  The laws, of course, may vary, but for the most part, in the United States the law is twenty-one pounds AND one year of age.  So if you have a Herculean five month old that weighs twenty-three pounds, the little giant still needs to face the back.

In Canada, car seat safety laws can vary widely from province to province.  In British Columbia, an infant must remain rear facing until twenty pounds AND one year of age.  After that, they need to remain in an appropriate car seat until forty pounds.  In Ontario, the child must be a minimum of twenty pounds before turning to the front, but there’s no age requirement.  In Nova Scotia, the requirement is twenty-two pounds AND at least one year of age.  In other provinces, there’s a weight requirement, but no rear facing requirement.  Some provinces also have booster seat requirements.  In my province, a child must ride in a booster seat until the age of nine or a height of four feet and nine inches.

The penalty for violating your state or province’s laws will vary by region, but in Ontario, it’s a $240 fine and two demerits for violating their car seat safety laws.  In Florida, it’s a $60 fine and three points on your license.  But, really, the monetary loss and the points/demerits on your license are nothing compared to the potential for loss of life due to a child being incorrectly restrained in an infant safety seat.

Have car seat safety guidelines influenced how you buckle up your baby?

You can check to see what the car seat safety laws in your State or Province/Territory are to be sure that you are at least meeting the minimum requirementsOriginally written January 6, 2011.

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. Thanks for the info. Always good to know!

  2. Car seat for safety purposes is very helpful for travelling!

  3. It’s important to protect the little ones that we love so much, so buckle them up and thank your state or province for caring!

  4. Karine Capobianco-Traverse says:

    Love it Suzi! I am a car seat nut and it just irks me when parents know they shouldn’t do it, but do it anyway. Or the ones that you tell need to RF to 20lbs and 1 year, but 2 or until you reach the max on your seat is best and they say oh well my kid is 9 months and 22lbs and can’t RF anymore…. um no only is it unsafe, it is the law!

    • Depending on where you are, yeah. It makes me nuts. Honestly, if not for switching up Norton’s seat, I’d almost like to turn him back around. If nothing else, it would mean the end of him kicking the back of the seat when the husband is driving. 😛

      • Karine Capobianco-Traverse says:

        My kids do that too and it is so annoying and I am in the passenger side, I can only imagine while driving

  5. Based on guidelines, I am leaving my daughter rear-facing for as long as possible despite her age. Why take a chance when rear-facing reduces the risk of injury and death?

  6. I have a friend that I dubbed “The Car Seat Nazi” which I absolutely love her for. She reminds me often about the guidelines and safety rules for carseats. I heed her advice often (I have had to change carseats a lot due to having three kiddos in the backseat now). I appreciate when you have a great resource at your fingertips!

  7. Jessica Galle says:

    Car seat safety cannot be over stressed and honestly I think a lot of parents are mostly just uninformed. If you do nothing else, follow the instructions in your car seat manual to a T when you install it. Also, never buy a used car seat with an unknown history. Check out my article “More Car Seat Tips” above for more info. Thanks for the post – it’s an important topic.

  8. My oldest son we turned forward facing at 12 months since those were the guidelines then. My middle son we kept rear facing until 14 months, he well exceeded the minimum to forward face and I was pregnant and could no longer lift him into a rear facing car seat. My daughter I do plan on rear facing until 2 years old though. I am finding it annoying to find a car seat that is easy to use rear facing though. Someone needs to design some seats that the tightening belt for the harness is not buried in the seat back of the car when the seat is rear facing.

    • I find that my Britax Advocate works well. And you can get car seats that have a 40 pound rear facing restriction now, too!

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