Rear- Facing
SafetyBeltSafe USA: Rear-facing Child
Restraints provide the best protection from
injury for any child that can fit in one.
Manufacturers are not required to list age
limits for child occupants, only weight and
height. The wording required by FMVSS 213
on convertibles can imply that children must
be turned to face forward at a certain
weight, regardless of other developmental
factors, but this weight is only a minimum
for which the CR has been certified forward
facing, not a mandate. An infant-only
restraint is usually outgrown before the
child reaches age one, so a convertible
restraint is needed to continue to keep the
child rear-facing for best protection. Almost
all convertibles currently sold in the U.S. are
certified to be used rear facing for children
up to 30 or 35 lbs.
Dr. Michael Sachs: One myth which persists
among caregivers and health care providers is
that a child should be turned forward-facing
once he or she reaches 20 lbs, regardless of
age. The correct advice is that a child should
remain rear-facing for as long as possible, but
at least until the child is both 1 year old and 20
lbs... While most convertible seats in use have a
maximum rear-facing limit of 20 to 22 pounds,
several seats certified for rear-facing use until
a child is 30 or 35 pounds have recently come
available... Such seats provide an opportunity
for children to continue riding rear-facing even
beyond their first birthday, increasing their
protection until they are 30 to 35 lbs.
American Baby Magazine : Misconception:
Once my baby turns age 1 and weighs 20
pounds, I should turn the seat around so she's
facing forward.
The Truth: A child should stay rear-facing for
as long as possible, says Flaura Koplin Winston,
MD, PhD, principal investigator of Partners for
Child Passenger Safety, a research
collaboration between The Children's Hospital
of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance
Company. If the infant is facing forward in a
frontal crash--which is the most common and
most severe type--the body is held back by the
car seat's straps, but the head is not, explains
Kathleen Weber, director of the Child
Passenger Protection Research Program at the
University of Michigan Medical School. While
older children and adults wearing safety belts
may end up with temporary neck injuries, a
baby's immature neck bones and pliable
ligaments can allow the spine to separate and
the spinal cord to rip, says Weber.
Solution: Once your child graduates from his
infant-only car seat, select a convertible car
seat with a minimum 30-pound rear-facing
capacity. Make sure it fits securely in your car
in both the rear- and forward-facing positions.
Keep your child rear-facing until his weight
reaches the car seat's maximum rear-facing
capacity or until his head is within an inch of
the top of the seat, whichever comes first.
Rear-facing at 20 months
Unmatched Safety
Rear-Facing at 36 months
Rear-Facing – Unmatched Safety
Rear-facing is the safest position the child
can ride in. All children should stay rearfacing beyond the minimum requirements of 1
year and 20 lbs. They should not be turned
forward-facing before they reach the maximum
rear-facing limits of a convertible seat - either
the maximum rear-facing weight limit or when
the top of their head is within one inch of the
top of the seat shell. While most parents are
aware that they must keep their children rearfacing "until they are AT LEAST 1 year old
AND 20 lbs", very few are told that there are
significant safety benefits when a child remains
rear-facing as long as the seat allows. For most
children, rear-facing can and should continue
well into the second year of life.
The most common misconception parents have
is that children are uncomfortable or at risk
for leg injury by having their legs up on the
vehicle seat back when kept rear-facing longer.
This is completely incorrect. First, children are
more flexible than adults so what we perceive
as uncomfortable is not so much so for the
children. Second, there are NO documented
cases of children's legs breaking in a crash due
to longer rear-facing. Even if there were, a cast
can be put on the leg; with a severed spinal cord
from FF too soon (of which there are
documented cases) there is no way to repair
the damage.
Every milestone in a child's life is exciting!
First steps, first word, first day of school.
Even car seat milestones seem exciting, but the
truth is, they should be looked at with a sense
of dread, not longing. Every step in car seat
"advancement" is actually reducing the
protection your child receives.
In a forward-facing seat, the neck is subjected
to massive strain because the head pitches
forward. A child's head is much larger in
proportion to the body than that of an adult.
The head of a small child is about 25 per cent
of the body mass whereas the head of an adult
is about six per cent! A small child's neck is
subjected to much more strain than an adult’s
neck when facing forward. Additionally, in a
forward-facing seat, the head is thrown outside
the confines of the seat and can make
dangerous contact with other occupants,
vehicle structures, and even intruding objects,
like trees or other vehicles.
In Sweden, children are kept rear-facing up to
the age of 5, or as much as 55 lbs. From 1992
through June 1997, only 9 children properly
restrained rear-facing have died in motor
vehicle crashes in Sweden, and all of these
involved catastrophic crashes with severe
intrusion and few other survivors. Larger
Swedish child restraints are designed to
accommodate these larger children. UScertified restraints can be used rear-facing
until the maximum weight limit is reached or
until the top of the child's head is within one
inch of the top of the seat, whichever comes
In a rear-facing seat, the head, neck and spine
stay correctly aligned and the child is allowed
to ride down the crash while the back of the
child restraint absorbs the brunt of the crash
force. The head is contained within the
restraint, and the child is much less likely to
come into contact with anything that might
cause head injury.
Experts Say:
The crash test photo below demonstrates the
huge difference in force experienced when
forward-facing (left) and rear-facing (right).
Courtesy of University of Michigan
Child Passenger Protection
The American Academy of Pediatrics: (AAP)
recommends that babies be kept in rear-facing
seats until they reach the maximum weight
allowed, as long as the top of the head is below
the top of the seat back. When your child is
older than 1 year of age and has reached the
highest weight or height allowed by the seat
for use rear-facing, you may turn the seat
forward-facing. Children have large
heads and comparatively weak necks, so in a
head-on collision (the most common type of
crash) a child's head can jerk forward
suddenly and violently, resulting in spinal
injuries. For this reason, keep your child
rear-facing position as long as possible.
(Note: The 12-months-and-20-pounds rule
that many parents cite when turning their
child forward in the car is actually the
minimum size and age requirement.)
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