As a parent, it can be tempting to move your child to a forward-facing car seat before they're ready but experts say keeping your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, up to the limits of the car seat is the best way keep your child safe and prevent a traumatic injury in the event of an accident. Here are five reasons you should keep your child rear-facing.
Why is rear-facing better?
- Rear-facing is still the safest way for children to ride, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics which recently updated their guidelines in 2018.
- Every transition actually reduces the amount of protection a child has in the event of a crash. Parents really shouldn't rush transitioning kids out of rear-facing seats and later, into boosters before they're ready.
- A rear-facing car seat will absorb most of the crash forces and supports the head, neck and spine. When children ride forward-facing, their heads - which for toddlers are disproportionately large and heavy - are thrown forward, possibly resulting in spine and head injuries.
- Many car seats manufacturers have created seats that allow children to remain rear-facing until they weigh 40 to 50 pounds. Even many infant-only seats have a higher weight limit to 35 or 40 pounds.
- Evidence does not support that children will suffer leg and foot injuries if their feet touch the seat. There are no known harmful effects of riding rear-facing longer, while the benefits of doing so have been observed for years. Children have many ways of making themselves comfortable when facing the rear and can ride safely that way, as long as they haven't reached the weight or height limit for rear-facing in their seat. For many kids, this could be well past two years. In Sweden, children routinely ride rear-facing until the age of four.
Guidance for Families from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Children should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, up to the limits of their car safety seat. This will include virtually all children under 2 years of age and most children up to age 4.
- Once they've been turned around, children should remain in a forward-facing car safety seat up to that seat's weight and length limits. Most seats can accommodate children up to 60 pounds or more.
- When they exceed these limits, child passengers should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they can use a seat belt that fits correctly.
- Once they exceed the booster limits and are large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use a lap and shoulder belt.
- All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.
Safely transporting children has come a long way from the days when would put a baby front-facing at age 1 and 20 pounds. Keep your child rear-facing for as long as their seat allows and check the label on your car seat to make sure your child fits the weight and height guidelines and that you are using the seat correctly.
Primary Children's Hospital offers free car seat checks by our trained and certified car seat technicians to make sure your child is riding as safely as possible. If you'd like to make an appointment for a car seat check, or if you have questions or concerns about car seats, simply call us at 801-662-6583 .