Monday, August 11, 2008

Don't Turn Around: Keep Kids' Car Seats Rear-Facing Longer

Although Violet is one year old, we don't have any plans to turn her car seat to face forward any time soon. Most parents are aware of the minimum standard: wait to turn the car seat from rear to forward facing until your child is one year old AND weighs at least twenty pounds. But experts - including the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) - agree that keeping kids rear-facing longer keeps them safer in the event of an accident.

How long? Kids are safest riding rear-facing as long as they continue to meet the height and weight limits of their specific car seat. For most convertible car seats, that means until the top of the child's head reaches the top of the shell, and up to 30 or 35 pounds. Many kids won't reach those limits until well past two, or even three.

In a frontal collision, injuries to a child in a car seat are generally limited to the head and neck. In a forward-facing seat, a child's body will be held back by the harness, while the head is thrown forward, subjecting the neck to massive stress, and possibly stretching or even breaking the spinal cord. In a rear-facing car seat, on the other hand, the head, neck and spine stay fully aligned, allowing the child to "ride down" the crash while the back of the seat absorbs most of the impact.

Though a rear-facing seat won't provide as much protection in a rear end collision, rear end collisions only account for about 4% of severe crashes - 72% of severe crashes are frontal collisions, and 24% side impacts. Frontal collisions are not only much more common, but much more severe than rear end crashes.

Kids can continue to ride rear-facing safely even when their legs are long enough that their feet are touching the vehicle seat. It may look uncomfortable to an adult, but kids are flexible and often prefer to sit with their legs folded. More importantly, there are no documented cases of hip or leg injuries in rear-facing children. And even if a child were to suffer an injury to a hip or leg, such injury would certainly be less devastating than the head or neck injury the child would likely have suffered if she had been forward facing during the collision.

In the United States, motor vehicles collisions are the number one cause of death for children under the age of 14. Keeping the car seat rear-facing as long as possible significantly reduces the risk of injury and death to children involved in collisions.

Looks like Violet is going to be enjoying the view out the back window a while longer.

Technorati Tags: ,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very good info for this kids car seat article