Stage 1: Rear-Facing Car Seats
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Babies have large heads and weak necks. The car seats are angled backwards because babies need extra support while riding in a car. A rear-facing car seat will support your baby’s neck in a sudden stop or crash.
Install your rear-facing seats
Always install the rear-facing car seat in the back seat of your car. This way, your child is as far away as possible from the front seat air bags if they inflate during a crash. There may be more than one way to install your car seat in your car. All three ways listed below are safe, so you can pick the one that is best for you and your car. You should check both your car owner’s manual and the car seat user guide for more information.
Remember: A child should not be left in the car seat to sleep once the car has stopped.
Choose the option that provides the best installation
Option 1: UAS
Use the Universal Anchorage System (UAS), if you have it in your car. Your car owner’s manual will show you where to find the anchors and may explain limitations for their use. If you cannot find complete instructions in these manuals, and your child weighs 18kg (40 lb) or more, we recommend you install the child car seat using both the UAS (if equipped) and vehicle seat belt.
In most vehicles, this symbol shows you where to find your car’s UAS anchor bars. It also shows you where the connectors are on your car seat.
Option 2: Seat Belt Only
Use this option if your seat belts or car seat have a built-in locking feature. Check your vehicle owner’s manual and car seat user guide to see how to lock the seat belt correctly.
Option 3: Seat Belt + Locking Clip
Use this option if your seat belts and car seat do not have a locking feature. Check both your vehicle owner’s manual and car seat user guide to see how to use the locking clip.
- Always consult your vehicle owner’s manual and car seat user guide prior to installation.
- Ensure the car seat is at the recline position recommended by the manufacturer.
- Items that did not come with your car seat (such as seat protectors or comfort pads) may not be safe to use. Contact the car seat manufacturer before using these items with your car seat.
- Leave as much space as possible between the car seat and the front seat of your vehicle. Make sure you follow the recommendations regarding whether or not the car seat can contact the vehicle’s front seats.
Check to make sure your rear-facing car seat is installed correctly
Make sure the rear-facing car seat is at the correct angle
- The vehicle must be parked on a level surface.
- To protect the child’s airway, make sure the rear-facing car seat is within the angle range indicated on the car seat or in the user guide.
- Use your car seat’s built-in angle adjustments, or if the car seat permits, a pool noodle or tightly rolled towel to increase the recline angle of the car seat.
Make sure the car seat doesn’t move
Hold both sides of the car seat ONLY where the seat belt or UAS belt is threaded through the car seat. Firmly try to move it in every direction: it should not move more than 2.5 cm (1 inch) side to side or front to back. Movement at the top of the car seat is normal.
- In a crash or sudden stop, your child will be safer in a car seat that is tightly installed.
- By law, children must be buckled up in a car seat made for their weight and height. Read your provincial/ territorial regulations for details.
- Many car seats are not installed correctly. If you are not sure that you have installed your car seat correctly, there may be a car seat clinic in your community that can help.
- Do not leave loose items in your vehicle during a trip, as they may hit and hurt someone in a sudden stop.
- When using bulky winter clothing, make sure that the harness system is tight, compressing the material for a snug fit. Check with the car seat manufacturer for alternative methods of clothing during the winter.
- It is important to make sure the harness system remains snug when you switch your child from winter clothing back to slimmer, summer clothing.
Buckle up your child
Make sure the harness is snug every time you place your child in the car seat. This will keep your child as safe as possible in a crash or sudden stop.
Things to watch for:
Make sure there is enough space between the top of your child’s head and the top of the car seat; every car seat is different. Check your car seat user guide to know how much space is required.
Make sure the harness straps are snug on your child’s shoulders. Slide a finger under the harness at the collarbone and pull gently up/out. Attempt to pinch the webbing of the harness with the thumb and forefinger. If you are unable to pinch the harness, then it is sufficiently tight
Make sure the chest clip is at your child’s armpit level and closed properly.
Make sure the harness straps are snug on your child’s hips.
Make sure the harness straps are at or just below your child’s shoulders.
When should you move your child from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat?
Don’t hurry. Keep your child in the rear-facing car seat until he or she grows out of it. Your car seat user guide will tell you the weight and height limits of a child for that car seat. If your child grows out of the rear-facing car seat, there may be another model that fits your child.
It is okay if your child’s legs touch the back of your vehicle seat.
Even if your child weighs more than 10 kg (22 lbs), and your provincial/ territorial law says you can use a forward-facing car seat, your child is safer in the rear-facing car seat as long as he or she is still below the car seat’s weight and height limits and fits in the car seat correctly.
When to replace a car seat
- Car seats have expiry dates, so make sure you replace and dispose of yours when it expires.
- Always replace and dispose of a car seat that was in a vehicle that was involved in a collision. Even if the car seat was empty, it may have been damaged.
- Contact the manufacturer to check whether you should replace the seat if the shell or webbing of the seat are torn or damaged.
Keep Kids Safe - Stage 1: Rear-Facing Seats
[PDF, 316 KB]
If you need more information on road safety, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free 1-800-333-0371 (Ottawa area 613-998-8616).