Photo Courtesy of NHTSA
Come April 18, kids in Quebec will need to be in a booster seat until they’re nine years old or hit 145 cm (4’9”) tall—a move that puts Quebec in line with regulations in many other provinces. Even so, safety experts caution that the law may lead some parents to move their kids out of a booster before it’s safe to do so.
This new Quebec law is replacing the current requirement that kids need to use a booster seat until they reach a sitting height of 63 cm. But while height or age is easier to understand than sitting height, the either-or option could be dangerous, says Jen Shapka, a mom of two, certified child passenger safety expert and curriculum coordinator for the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada. Shapka worries that parents will think that their kid is ready to ditch the booster once they turn nine years old—and for many, that’s just not the case.
She says height is a much better indicator of when kids will start to be able to ride safely in a vehicle without a booster seat, but based on growth charts, the average kid doesn’t reach 145 cm tall until age 11 for girls and 11.5 for boys. “That means a large number of kids need to be in boosters until they’re at least 12,” she explains. “Moving out of the booster seat too early puts kids at an increased risk of injuries in a crash. If they aren’t sitting properly—and the adult seat belt isn’t on the right parts of their bodies, the strong parts—then the risk of injury and ejection climbs.”
Ultimately, leaving the booster seat behind is all about how a child fits in a vehicle’s seat and the positioning of the vehicle’s seat belt. Transport Canada notes that kids are ready to graduate from a booster seat when they can sit with their back flat against the vehicle’s seat and their knees bent past the front edge of the seat (no slouching). The seat belt must to lie flat across the pelvis, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt has to sit across the middle of the shoulder and clavicle.
To make matters complicated, kids might be totally safe to ride in one vehicle with just the seat belt, but need a booster in another, notes Shapka. “Some vehicles have large or deep seats or seat belt geometry that delays when the adult seat belt starts to fit,” she says. It’s a reality she knows well: her 11-year-old no longer needs a booster to ride safely in the family’s compact car, but Shapka says her daughter will need to use a booster for “quite some time yet” in their minivan due to the deep and tall captain’s chairs.
Climbing into a booster seat can be a tough pill for kids to swallow as they get older—many are itching to leave the booster behind long before it’s safe. But there are ways you can make it easier on your tween. While it’s a good idea to start with a high-back booster, you can often move to a simple, affordable height-adjusting booster seat that raises your child up so the seat belt fits them properly. Shapka notes there are some more discreet, mature-looking options with a lower profile and dark fabrics to blend in with a vehicle’s upholstery—a big selling point for tweens who want nothing more than to leave the booster behind.
Quebec: From 40 pounds to nine years old or 145 cm tall
Ontario: From 40 pounds to eight years old or 80 pounds or 145 cm tall
British Columbia: From 40 pounds to nine years old or 145 cm tall
Alberta: A car seat is required until six years old or 40 pounds (18 kg). There is no booster seat requirement in Alberta, however provincial safety experts advise that children should move to a booster seat once they have reached the maximum forward-facing weight or height limit of their car seat, and remain in the booster until they reach its maximum weight or height limit.
Saskatchewan: From 40 pounds to seven years old or 80 pounds (36 kg) and 145 cm tall
Manitoba: From 40 pounds to nine years old or 80 pounds (36 kg) or 145 cm tall
New Brunswick: From 40 pounds to nine years old or 79 pounds (36 kg) or 145 cm tall
Nova Scotia: From 40 pounds to nine years old or 145 cm tall
Prince Edward Island: From 40 pounds to 10 years old or 145 cm tall
Newfoundland & Labrador: From 40 pounds to nine years old or 80 pounds (37 kg) and 145 cm tall
Yukon: From 48 pounds to 145 cm tall or 100 pounds (45 kg)
Nunavut and Northwest Territories: A car seat is required until children reach 40 pounds (18 kg). There is no booster seat requirement in the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.