Why rear-facing car seats are safer

By • Published: July 7th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When it comes to decisions about the small set, conversations can get heated.

Even if you don’t have a small child, you are likely aware of the tension between parents surrounding the choice to breastfeed or formula feed, not to mention the decision to stay at home with the kids or send them to day care.

But there is another controversial topic brewing on the sidelines of the playground that you may not have heard of. And it involves … car seats.

In many states, parents are required to place infants in a rear-facing car seat until they turn one and weigh at least 20 pounds. When babies reach that milestone first birthday, many parents often flip the car seat around so Junior can face forward.

But now, experts say the big switcheroo should wait at least one more year. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently changed its recommendation, advising parents to avoid using a forward-facing car seat until age two. Why? Studies have shown that a rear-facing seat may actually save a child’s life in an accident.

A 2007 study showed that children under two are 75 percent less likely to suffer a serious injury or die in a crash if their car seat is rear-facing. Another study has shown that a rear-facing car seat is five times safer than a forward-facing one.

It has to do with physics. When a car is struck, the force snaps a child’s head forward. This can lead to serious spinal or neck injuries or even death in babies and toddlers because their neck muscles have yet to fully develop. A rear-facing seat distributes the force of an accident better.

Accidents are the number one cause of death in kids, so experts advise parents to be cautious and consider keeping their children rear-facing until age two or longer.

It may be a tough switch if your child is used to facing forward, but it should help you breathe a little easier on the road.