Staying Rear Facing - Easier than you think!
Written by: Kim Wilschek
Do you know when to turn your car seat around? Safety Squad has been telling parents for years to keep their kids rear-facing, at least until 2 years of age, or longer. In March of 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics officially updated their policy statement to include this recommendation. Why is this so important? Quite simply, it is safer. And, not just a little safer, a lot safer. Rear facing is 5X safer than forward facing. This is the single most important thing parents can do to protect their kids:
- Motor Vehicle Collisions (MVC) are a leading cause of accidental injury or death for children
- The AAP research states that there are about 5000 child deaths per year from MVCs. More importantly, for every death, there are 400 more injuries that are serious enough to require medical attention.
- Children under the age of 2 are 75% less likely to die or be seriously injured when rear facing instead of forward facing (journal of injury prevention, 2007). A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body.
What does all this mean for parents when they are transitioning out of their infant seat to a convertible seat? In most cases, this means that the convertible seat needs to be installed rear facing. In talking with our clients about this, we find that parents have many unwarranted concerns about keeping their toddler rear-facing. Let’s address the top 3 concerns now:
- Will their legs be cramped? No, by nature kids are flexible. If there isn’t enough room to extend their legs, cross them. Sitting cross-legged is the easiest way to overcome the desire to turn your child forward-facing too soon.
- Will they have an increased risk of injuring their legs in a crash? No. There is NO statistical evidence that rear-facing children have increased leg injuries in crashes, BUT, there is overwhelming evidence that forward-facing kids have drastically increased head, neck and chest injuries in comparison to rear-facing.
- Will they protest? In general, kids don’t know what forward-facing looks like, so keeping them rear-facing is only an issue for the parent. There could be specific health or behavioral reasons to go forward-facing earlier, but most kids don’t fall into that category.
When the child is over 2, the convertible seat can then be turned forward facing. Additionally, the child should stay in that 5 point harness convertible seat as long as possible, past the age of 4. Rushing to use the booster seat is a ‘demotion’ in overall safety. We recommend that parents invest the money in convertible seat with a higher max limit, so kids can stay in a 5-pt harness longer, such as a Britax Marathon 70 or Boulevard 70 Convertible Seat.
Life is unpredictable. As parents, we cannot control every single variable to protect our kids. As the parent, it is your role to take charge of motor vehicle safety. Give yourself peace of mind and stay rear facing until 2.