Face the Facts/Face the Back

Latest Recommendations Urge Parents to Keep Children in Rear-Facing Car Seats Until Age 2

Face the Facts/Face the Back

Parenting young children is all about milestones – watching and anxiously awaiting for the first step, first tooth, and first word. But when it comes to keeping little ones safe in the car, parents should not be too eager to reach the milestone of turning them around into a forward-facing car seat.

That is because children riding in rear-facing seats are much safer. In fact, children who ride rear facing are five times safer than those riding forward facing. While many parents have heard from friends or family that 1 year and 20 pounds are the requirements for turning car seats around, this is outdated and inaccurate information.

As of 2011, the official recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is to keep kids in rear-facing car seats until at least age 2, or until they reach the maximum height or weight of the seat.

The reason that rear facing is safer for small children is simple. In a rear-facing car seat, the baby’s entire body is protected by the shell of the seat. These seats are designed to protect a child’s head, neck and spine and prevent the most life-threatening and debilitating injuries in a crash. The bodies of children in forward-facing seats are restrained by the harnesses, but in a crash the head is thrown forward, stressing, stretching or even breaking the spinal cord.

Why Common Objections Are Not Worth the Risk

The certified child passenger safety technicians at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital install more than 1,000 car seats a year. Take a look at some of the most common objections they hear to keeping kids rear facing and learn why even these concerns can not compete with the simple fact that rear-facing children are five times safer.

His legs will be injured in a crash if they are up against the seat:

While this may seem like a reasonable concern, there is actually no evidence of leg, hip or feet injuries to children in rear-facing seats. In fact, studies show that forward-facing kids are more likely to have leg injuries when they are thrown forward in a crash and their legs hit the seat in front of them. Even if a child were to suffer a broken leg in a rear-facing seat, it would be much less severe than the head, neck, and spine injuries that could result from turning a child forward facing too soon.

I can’t see her:
He is uncomfortable:

Kids are much more flexible than adults and often sit and sleep in positions that grown ups could never dream of being comfortable. Although your child may look cramped in a rear-facing seat, rest assured that sitting with his legs crossed or even frog-legged is comfortable for a 2-year-old. Just as adults recline the seat a bit to rest comfortably while traveling, the angle of a rear-facing seat also makes it easier for kids to nap in a comfortable position without their heads bobbing.

She does not like facing backward:
It is hard to get him in and out of the seat:

As your child gets bigger it is a little more challenging to get him in and out of a rear-facing car seat. But as we all know kids can be inconvenient. The desire for ease of use should not outweigh best safety practices. Teaching an older child to climb into his own seat can simplify the process.

I already turned her around at one year, I can’t turn her rear facing now:
He is a big baby, so he is strong enough to go forward facing:

It may seem logical that a baby in the 95th percentile is much stronger than a smaller baby and could endure the forces of a crash better than a child at the smaller end of the growth chart. However, a bigger baby is likely more at risk riding forward facing. The development of the neck and spine are about the same in children of the same age, regardless of size. A big baby likely has a much larger and heavier head, which would snap forward with a much greater force than a smaller child’s in crash, making it even more important to keep him rear facing for as long as possible. The good news is that all convertible car seats on the market today can be used rear facing until at least 30 pounds, with some going as high as 45 pounds.

Learn More or Make a Safety Seat Installation Appointment

For questions about car seats or to schedule an appointment to have your seat installed by a certified child passenger safety technician at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital or UH Ahuja Medical Center, call 216-844-2277.

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