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Car Seats

Car seat guidelines in Alberta

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​According to the law in Alberta, the driver must make sure passengers under 16 years of age are buckled up correctly.

For children under 18 kg (40 lb) and under 6 years of age the law says:

  • an appropriate child safety seat must be used
  • the child safety seat must be correctly installed in the vehicle
  • the child must be properly secured into the seat

Using a car seat properly can reduce the risk of injury by up to 82% and risk of death by up to 71%.

Car seat stages

There are three basic types or stages of car seats for children:
  1. rear-facing (car seat and child faces the back of the car)
  2. forward-facing with a harness (car seat and child faces the front of the car)
  3. booster (booster seat and child faces the front of the car)
Many seats combine more than one stage. It is safest to keep your child in each stage for as long as possible.

Rear-facing car seats

  • Infants and young children are safest riding in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the maximum height or weight limit for the rear-facing seat use allowed by the manufacturer. Find these limits on the car seat’s stickers or in the instruction manual.
  • Rear-facing car seats include rear-facing only (or infant) car seats, as well as larger rear-facing car seats that you can change from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat as your child grows. 
  • When your baby outgrows a rear-facing only (or infant) car seat, move them into a larger rear-facing car seat. Your child is safest in the larger rear-facing car seat until they are 2, 3, or even 4 years old, as long as they are still under the maximum height or weight limit for rear-facing use.
  • A rear-facing car seat provides the best protection for a child’s head, neck, and spine in a sudden stop or crash.
Don’t rush to move your child in a forward-facing car seat. The rear-facing position is the safest.

Forward-facing car seats with a harness

  • When your child outgrows their larger rear-facing car seat by height or weight, they should move to a forward-facing car seat with a harness. 
  • Forward-facing car seats include the larger rear-facing seats that you can change to a forward-facing car seat as your child grows. They also include car seats that can change from a forward-facing car seat with a harness into a booster seat.
  • Use a forward-facing car seat with a harness until your child reaches that seat’s maximum height or weight limit for the harness. Find these limits on the car seat’s stickers or in the instructional manual. 
Some forward-facing seats can be used with a harness for children weighing up to 30 kg (65 lb).


Booster seats

An adult seat belt alone does not properly fit a child’s body—it rides too high on the belly and neck. This can cause serious injuries in a crash. A booster seat helps the seatbelt safely fit a child’s body.

  • When your child outgrows their forward-facing car seat with a harness by height or weight, they should move to a booster seat.
  • Your child is safest in a booster seat until they reach the maximum height or weight limit of the booster seat. Find these limits on the booster seat’s stickers or in the instruction manual.
  • Use a booster seat until the vehicle’s lap-shoulder seatbelt fits properly. This is typically when your child is 145 cm (4 ft. 9 in.) tall and between 8 and 12 years of age.​

To help you make every ride a safe ride:

  1. Read the instructions that came with your car seat and the instructions in your vehicle owner’s manual.
  2. Take a Child Car Seat YES Test. The YES Tests are self-check tools for choosing, installing, and using a car seat or booster seat:
  3. ​As a parent or caregiver, you can learn the knowledge and skills to transport your child safely.​​

Current as of: May 15, 2023

Author: Provincial Injury Prevention, Alberta Health Services