Whether we are driving to work, or taking the kids to soccer practice, Canadians spend a great deal of time on the road, and unfortunately there is always potential for a collision. Transport Canada statistics show sixty-seven Canadian children died in motor vehicle collisions in 2010.¹ In 2012 the leading cause of injury among young persons was motor vehicle crashes.²Therefore, securing your child in the proper child safety seat is paramount, and could prevent a catastrophic injury if you have a crash.

There are both federal and provincial laws dealing with child safety seats, and following the rules in those laws can help keep your child safe.

The federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act sets manufacturing standards for companies producing child safety seats.   Federal law also makes it illegal to import and use a car seat from outside Canada if it does not meet Canada’s safety standards – click here for more information.  Transport Canada enforces the federal child restraint system rules, and offers general instructions on how to install safety seats, along with plain-language child safety seat tips and information, including where to find car seat clinics for parents and caregivers at: tc.gc.ca.

Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act requires everyone in a vehicle to wear a seat belt or, if under 16, to be in a child safety restraint appropriate to their height, age and weight. It is the driver’s responsibility to make sure children under 16 are wearing a seatbelt or are in the right child safety restraint.  There are a few exceptions to the seat belt rules, for example, if you have a letter from your doctor indicating that your child cannot wear a seat belt or be in a car seat because of a medical condition. You must be able to show the letter if a police officer asks to see it. For a full list of seat belt exemptions please see the Registry of Motor Vehicles website at gov.ns.ca/snsmr/rmv/safe/seat.asp.  The fines for breaking the seatbelt or child safety seat rules under the Motor Vehicle Act start at $169.91 for a first offence, and increase for a second or subsequent offence.

All child safety seats must meet Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (look for Transport Canada’s ‘National Safety Mark’ symbol), and must be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The minimum child safety seat rules are:


Your child should be in a rear facing child seat if your child:

  • is under age one; or
  • weighs less than 10 kg (22 lbs), regardless of your child’s age.

The rear-facing child-seat must not be in a seat that has an active frontal airbag.   As children are safest in a rear-facing seat, Transport Canada recommends using a rear facing child seat as long as possible – until your child no longer fits within the height and weight limits for your rear-facing seat.

Young Children

You may place your child in a forward facing safety seat if your child:

  • is aged one to nine; and
  • weighs more than 10 kg (22 lb) but less than 18 kg (40 lb); and
  • no longer fits the height and weight limits for your rear-facing seat. 

Older Children

You may place your child in a booster seat if your child:

  • is under 9 years old; and
  • weighs 18 kg (40 lb) or more; and
  • is less than 145 cm (4 feet, 9 inches) tall.

Your child may wear an adult seat belt once your child is either:

  • 9 years old, or
  • at least 145 cm (57 inches) tall.

Out of Province Drivers

Nova Scotia child safety seat laws do not apply to vehicles registered outside of Nova Scotia. Instead, the law of the place where your vehicle is registered applies.   However, even if the law in your jurisdiction does not require child safety seats, when driving in Nova Scotia you must at least ensure that children under the age of sixteen in your vehicle wear a seat belt. 

Child safety seat laws can vary from province to province, so be sure to check what the rules are if you are travelling in the rest of Canada.

While child safety seats may seem like a hassle, they could save your child’s life. The short time it takes to properly secure your child in a safety seat that fits your child’s height and weight could be the difference between life and death. So remember before leaving the driveway, ensure you and all passengers buckle up.

For more information:

by Kiel Mercer, law student volunteer at LISNS
September 2013

¹Transport Canada, Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics: 2010, (Ottawa: Public  Works and Governmental Services Canada, 2012) at 3.
²Health Canada, Injury in Review 2012: Spotlight on Road and Transport Safety, (Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada, 2012) at 16.

This page gives legal information only, and is not intended to replace legal advice from a lawyer.  Contact a lawyer if you need legal advice.