Running head: Rear Facing Car Seats 1
Rear facing car seats 2
Rear Facing Car Seats
Rear Facing Car Seats
In April of 2014, I made a Facebook post saying I was excited my son was turning one, and it was time to flip his car seat around to forward facing. About thirty minutes later I got a message from a friend with a link attached. I rolled my eyes because I hate when people tell me how to parent. However, when I opened the link, I learned something new. I learned what a huge risk it was to switch my son’s car seat around so soon and those children who remain rear-facing until at least two years old have a greater chance of survival than those who are forward facing. Laws change, and research is updated all the time. It is hard for parents to keep up with all the new recommendations, but it's critical that we do. To protect children, parents should keep them rear-facing in car seats until age two or until the child exceeds the height or weight limit of the seat.
History of the Car Seat
Car seats have been around since the 1930’s, and over the years they have improved tremendously. The first car seat appeared almost eighty years ago when safety was not the focus; it was made to keep children contained in moving vehicles and allow them to see out the windows (Babble, 2011, para. 2). According to Babble (2011), “In the 1960’s an impact protection car seat was finally designed, but due to a lack of information on the subject, the general public did not embrace the notion of children’s car seats for safety" (para. 2). The 1960's marked the beginning of using car seats to keep children safe, but it was not until the 1970’s that the government put regulations into place. According to Smith (2015), "The very first standard was set in 1971 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which required all seats be held by safety belts and include a harness to keep the child in the seat, though, no crash testing was required. By 1985 the first laws requiring children under a certain age to be properly restrained was passed" (pg. 7). Today, car seats have strict regulations. Over the years, researchers keep finding ways to improve children's safety while traveling in vehicles. Looking at where child safety started, it is safe to say car seats have come a long way and recommendations and safety measures continue to improve. The latest research recommends parents keep children rear facing for as long as possible.
Once car seats were mandated, each year car seat companies made new adjustments and discovered something safer. The experts used to suggest keeping children rear facing until one-year-old or twenty pounds. Many people still follow these guidelines and seem to be unaware of a new standard. According to Consumer Report News (2012), “The latest guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that children should remain rear-facing up until they reach the age of two or when they reach the height or weight limits of a rear-facing seat" (para. 3). In most states switching a child's car seat to forward facing at one-year-old is not breaking any state laws because it takes legislation time to catch up with new recommendations. Although laws do not require keeping a child rear facing until two years old, the industry has clearly indicated that it is safest.
Many parents celebrate milestones for their babies. For example, parents celebrate sitting up, crawling, first words, and walking. Switching children’s car seats from rear facing to forward facing should not be rushed or considered a milestone. According to Consumer Reports’ program manager for vehicle and child safety, “It can be tempting to 'graduate' your child to the next level of restraint or the front seat as often that change is more convenient, but when parents better understand the increased risk for injury or worse, they are more likely to delay for the safety of their children" (Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, 2012, para. 9). I thought it was a milestone before a friend corrected me and showed me why I should not rush this process.
Children Under Two Are Safer when Rear Facing
Riding rear facing is the safest way to travel, especially for children under two. Car crashes are the number one killer of children in the United States. Researchers have proven children have a greater chance of survival during an accident when they are rear facing. Infants under the age of one simply do not have the back and neck strength to travel facing forward. In the rear-facing position, the force of a crash or sudden stop is spread across the child’s body, and absorbed into the back of the car seat. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (2009), “Forward-facing children are more likely to be injured because of the force of the crash is concentrated on seat belt contact points, and younger children’s heads are disproportionally large for their small, weak necks” (para. 4). Young children are safer while in car seats that are rear facing because the car seat does a better job at supporting their head and immature neck and spine. According to Watson and Monteiron (2009), “The relatively large head mass and differences in the anatomy of the cervical spine in young children can lead to excessive stretching or even transection of the spinal cord if a child is involved in a frontal (head-on) crash while in a forward facing car seat. The younger the child, the lower the crash force required to cause spinal injury” (para. 3). The older a child is the more time their spinal column has to strengthen. Therefore, to help prevent severe damage to a child's spine or even death, children should remain rear facing in the car until they are two or have reached the maximum weight or height limit for the car seat. Knowing a child is safer makes it worth the wait to make the big switch.
Holly Wagner, a mother in Louisiana, shared a heartbreaking story and pleaded with everyone to keep their children rear facing. Wagner lost her eleven-month-old son, Cameron, in a tragic car accident. Cameron was thrown from his forward-facing car seat in the crash and died sixteen days after being in intensive care. Wagner said, “If he had been kept rear facing and was buckled in, he would have survived" (Donaldson James, 2014, para. 11). Wagner now has a Facebook page called Cameron’s Story is Saving Lives and a YouTube channel educating parents about the importance of car seat safety and how to properly use and install car seats in Cameron’s honor. Although Cameron may not be here physically, his story lives on and is helping parents everywhere realize how critical it is to keep children rear-facing past one. Awareness
Parents need to become aware of the risks switching a car seat too early brings. There is ample evidence proving a child has a higher chance of surviving a crash while rear facing. It can be deadly switching a child to a forward facing seat before the child’s body and spine are ready. Parents need to know this. I never heard of the new studies regarding changing car seats; I had always assumed since the law required children to be rear facing until one years old that it was safe. It can be uncomfortable having to correct parents because nobody wants to be told how to raise their children. I know I was annoyed when my friend messaged me, but I’m thankful I listened to her and did research. Strangers should not have to have the burden of stepping on other people’s toes and telling them that their car seats are installed wrong. It should be the states’ and doctor’s responsibility to educate parents.
Sadly, out of the fifty states, only four states have updated their car seat laws. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (2016), “4 states (California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma) require children younger than two be in a rear-facing child seat.” States need to enforce these laws since they know what the recommendations are now. Having a law in forty-six states allowing parents to switch their child’s car seat around when they turn one is sending a confusing message. Many parents mistake the minimum for the ideal age to make the switch. Knowing all the risks and to keep children safer, laws in all fifty states need to be updated requiring parents to keep children rear facing until they reach their car seat weight limit or are two years of age.
To some people having a child rear facing until two can sound strange, and people have a lot of questions. For example, some worry that their kids’ legs will be too cramped in a rear facing seat. Busting the myth about leg room is pretty simple. Kids are flexible because their joints are not entirely formed, so even though we cannot imagine working our grown-up bodies into that position, the kids are comfortable.
Parents also worry about leg injuries. However, studies show that forward facing children face more leg injuries. According to the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington, "Children in forward-facing car seats involved in severe front or rear crashes may incur a range of lower extremity injury from impact with the car interior component in front of them” (Bennett, Kaufman, Schiff, Mock, & Quan, 2006, para. 15). While kids in rear facing seats may have leg injuries in serious accidents, they are usually less severe because the forward facing children’s legs get rammed into the seat in front of them while the children rear facing legs usually scrunch up.
For parents who are still not convinced about the leg room, Graco has an excellent car set that is recommended by the The American Academy of Pediatrics. It is called Graco Extend2Fit, and it provides 5" additional legroom and seats a child up to 50 lb. to ride rear facing, allowing children to be comfortable and safe in the rear facing position longer. These car seats can be found at Target. Babies R Us, and any other major store that sells baby items.
In conclusion, keeping children rear-facing until at least two years old is critical. Hopefully, with all the research proving the importance of waiting to switch over to forward facing new laws will be enforced. The minimum requirements of the fifty-six states are not the safest; we need to be proactive and ride our kids to the max limits of their seats. It can be the difference between surviving a crash or not.
Bennett, T. D., Kaufman, R., Schiff, M., Mock, C., & Quaun, L. (2006, September). Crash analysis of lower extremity injuries in children restrained in forward-facing car seats during front and rear impacts. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16966993
Evarts, E. (2012, August 7). Study shows too many kids graduate early to inappropriate car seats. Retrieved from http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2012/08/study-shows-too-many-kids-graduate-early-to-inappropriate-car-seats/index.htm
Governor Highway Safety Association. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/childsafety_laws.html
James, S. D. (2014, December 9). 'Car seat cop' mom wants to save your child's life - TODAY.com. Retrieved from http://www.today.com/parents/car-seat-cop-mom-wants-save-your-childs-life-1D80345801
Jordan, M. E. (2011). History of the Car Seat. Retrieved from https://www.babble.com/baby/history-of-the-car-seat/#the-1940s
O'Keefe, L. (2009, April). New Advice; Rear-facing carseats safer for children until they are 2. The official Newsmagazine of the American Academy of Pediactrics, 30(4). Retrieved from http://www.aapanews.org
Smith, L. (2015, October 21). History of Car Seats - The Evolution of the Car Seat. Retrieved from http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/g2870/car-seat-history/
Watson, E. A., & Monteiro, M. J. (2009). Advice use of rear facing child car seats for children under 4 years old. British Medical Journal, 338. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b1994