Parents look forward to all sorts of things as milestones in their child’s development. The introduction of solid foods. Potty training. Among them, one thing they should take slowly: turning the car seat around. The research is clear: An infant or toddler is up to five times safer in a rear-facing car seat than one facing forward.
Up to today, while the law was that children under the age of 1 year and 20-22 lbs need to remain rear-facing, the recommendation was that children should remain rear-facing for longer.
Reducing safety confusion
However, the conflict between the recommendation and the actual law caused confusion, with many parents simply adhering to the 1 year rule. Other parents erroneously believed that once the child’s legs were bent against the back seat that they “needed” to turn the child around for safety reasons.
Today the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released new guidelines for the use of child restraint devices in automobiles. The new guidelines make it much clearer: Children should remain rear-facing until two years of age, and preferably to the rear-facing limits of the carseat you own.
Most important factor
Spine and neck strength are the key reasons to keep a child facing rear. In a head-on collision, the forces that would give an adult whiplash would be far more likely to give an infant or toddler a serious or even fatal neck injury because their necks are not strong and are still growing.
The new recommendations also address the use of booster seats for older children. Because shoulder belts can rest against a child’s neck, the recommendation is to use a booster seat until the child reaches a height of 4 feet 9 inches. This recommendation may be more difficult to implement, as many kids that size could be pre-teens who would strenuously object to the use of a booster seat.
The guidelines also stress that children under the age of 13 should always ride in the back seat, no matter what their size.
Finally, no matter what kind of restraint system you use with your child, it’s also important to ensure the system is installed properly. Happy – and safe – driving!
Photo credit: Chris and Kris on Flickr
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