The federal government is updating child car seat safety requirements and implementing new rules for manufacturers that will take effect on New Year's Day.

Beginning on January 1, 2012, new car seats will be able to handle bigger kids.

The updates include aligning elements with those in the U.S. and incorporating specific Canadian testing requirements. The major changes include:

  • A new testing requirement using a three-point seatbelt to secure car seats in vehicles
  • Changes to child seats' dynamic testing to adopt most of the U.S. testing parameters
  • Changing the definition of an infant from 9 kg to 10 kg
  • An increase in the maximum allowable weight limit of child seats from 22 kg to 30 kg
  • Introducing dynamic testing requirements for booster seats
  • Allowing harnesses to be certified for use on school buses by special needs children

In Alberta, any child who weighs up to 18 kg needs to be in a child restraint system that is approved by Transport Canada.

The new regulations do not mean you have to buy a new car seat but it should be replaced if it was installed in a vehicle that was in a collision.

"They don't need to replace them now. Again the regulations have been strong. They might already be satisfying the new regulations and as long as they are in good shape, good condition that is, and within the expiry date they can continue using them," said Dr. Richard Musto, Alberta Health Services.

Transport Canada says the car seat should also be replaced if the shell or materials on the seat are ripped or damaged.

They are also encouraging parents to check the expiry date of the seat and be sure to replace it when it reaches that date.

Expiry dates on car seats vary but most have a life span of between five and nine years.

For more information on car seat safety, visit Transport Canada's Keep Kids Safe Website.