Update: CBB Reader Andrea wants parents to keep their kids in rear-facing car seats longer
Update:Anya has been front-facing since she was about 18 months old, but reading Andrea's missive about the importance of rear-facing your toddler AND watching that video, I would like to have her rear-face again. However, as she's been front-facing for a year, I'm afraid it will be a challenge now that she's gotten used to front-facing. Since I figured many of you may be in the same boat, I asked Andrea for suggestions on turning Anya back to rear-face. Here's what she said:
by CBB Reader Andrea, Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST)
Most parents know the importance of keeping children in rear-facing car seats until the minimum of 1 year AND 20 lbs. But many are never made aware of the benefits of rear-facing past that age. The truth is, the “rear-facing until 20 lbs AND 1 year” guideline is truly just the bare minimum. Once a child outgrows the infant seat, he or she should be moved to a rear-facing convertible seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says it's best to leave a child rear-facing until the maximum weight allowed by the seat. (This has actually been their recommendation since at least 2002.) And you don't need a high-priced car seat to rear-face past 1 year and 20 lbs. – the most affordable convertible car seat on the market has a rear-facing weight limit of 35 lbs. For most current seats, the weight limit for rear-facing is at least 33 lbs.
Pictured: Andrea's daughter Allison, rear-facing at 17 months and about 23 pounds.
Click Continue Reading for the rest of Andrea's article.
A study published in the December 2007 issue Injury Preventionmagazine by of Dr. Marilyn Bull, et. al., compared the injury risk ofrear-facing and forward-facing car seats for children under age 2.(Bull is the medical director and founder of the Automotive SafetyProgram and Kohl's Center for Safe Transportation of Children at RileyHospital for Children in Indianapolis.) The study concluded that"Rear-facing car seats are more effective than forward-facing inprotecting restrained children aged 0–23 months … Use of arear-facing car seat, in accordance with restraint recommendations forchild size and weight, is an excellent choice for optimum protection upto a child's second birthday." The study noted that the benefits of arear-facing car seat were particularly great in a side-impact crash.
Some parents believe that a child must be turned forward-facing whenthe feet reach the back of the vehicle seat or the legs will break in acrash. However, no research supports that claim. In fact, "The lowerextremity is among the most frequently injured body regions forchildren restrained by forward facing child restraint systems (FFCRS),accounting for 28% of their clinically significant injuries,"according to this study from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.Others parents may wonder about the comfort of a rear-facing child withlonger legs; this is usually due to the parent's perception rather thanactual complaints from the child. Most children quickly figure out whatto do with their legs – some sit cross-legged, some bend their legs,some put their feet on the vehicle seat.
According to SafeKids, the certifying body for Child PassengerSafety Technicians, "The rear-facing position reduces the risk ofspinal cord injury in a frontal collision, since the safety seat'sshell supports the neck and spreads crash forces across the entireback."
The necks of very young children do not have much bone-to-bonecontact and are unable to withstand the "shear" forces possible in acrash, explained Rich Costello, Safety Restraints Engineer, TakataRestraint Systems, at a recent presentation to child passenger safety advocates.A newborn's neck has very little bone-to-bone contact, while the neckof a 3-year-old is more developed and better able to withstand theimpact of a crash. When a child is rear-facing in a crash, the forcesare spread out among the strong carseat shell and child's strong back.
NASCAR driver John Andretti is an advocate of rear-facing until twoyears old."We must take immediate steps to ensure that our children, our mostprecious cargo, are safe and secure. Make sure all child seats areinstalled properly, and remember that for toddlers, facing the rear issafer than facing forward," Andretti recently said in an editorial forAuto Week magazine.
This crash test demonstrates the forces on a child in a rear-facingcar seat and in a forward-facing car seat, in a frontal crash. Whichcar seat would you rather have your young child in?
More car seat safety resources: