While any type of motor vehicle accident can be devastating to all those involved, when a baby or toddler is in the vehicle the situation can become even emotional and sometimes tragic. Through the use of car seats, boosters, and safety harnesses, babies and young children have become safer while in the vehicle and at less of a risk of becoming injured during a motor vehicle accident.
Original it was believed that children under the age of one should be rear-facing in their car seats to lessen the impact, glass and airbag exposure and other damage that often occurs during a collision. But recent studies have shown that even toddlers can benefit from this position in the event of a collision. In 2011 the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their position on rear-facing age requirements and recommended that, instead of children becoming forward facing until their first birthday, they remain in rear-facing car seats at least until the age of two, therefore, recommending rear-facing car seats for both infants and young toddlers.
Why is rear-facing a safer option?
During a child's early years, the bones and ligaments in their body are still in the development stage which is why you may see them sleeping in an awkward position without beginning uncomfortable. Unfortunately, because these bones and ligaments are in a much more fragile state, they are more likely to suffer spinal cord injuries in a car crash than an adult if not properly protected. Additionally, at this stage in life, their head is larger in proportion to their bodies which causes them to need to support additional weight on already less developed bones.
A rear-facing car seat designed for the correct age and size of your child will help secure the head, neck and spine limiting the movement and ability to jolt in the event of a crash, Since the most significant impacts occur in the front of the vehicle, if your child is rear-facing, the impact will simply force their head into the headrest of the car seat instead of thrusting it forward in a whiplash motion.
When should your child's car seat face forward?
As stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics it is advised that your child remains rear-facing until at least two years old, but since all children develop at different rates, to ensure maximum safety, it is best to follow the height and weight guidelines for the rear-facing car seat. If your child is underweight or petite, it may be advisable to have them rear-facing longer until they have reached the maximum height and weight for the model. This will put most children in the range of two to three years old when it is time for them to move up from a rear-facing car seat. Once they have outgrown that car seat, you will want to place them in the next step forward facing seat that will be appropriate for their size.
What if your child becomes too tall for rear-facing?
Since a toddler's legs can be long and become cramped in a rear-facing car seat, it is advisable to invest in a rear-facing car seat that offers extenders for leg position or accommodates taller children. Some rear-facing models have been created to support children as much as 50 lbs and 49" to make sure that parents can help to keep their toddlers rear-facing for as long as necessary to keep them safe. You can find information on the Amercian Academy of Pediatrics website which shows you the many different models and their height and weight requirements as well as guides to ensure that they are correctly installed and provide the best protection.
Even though updated safety features in cars have significantly lowered the rate of death of children from motor vehicle accidents in the past decade. car accidents remain the leading cause of accidental death in children over the age of one. Therefore protecting your children while they are in the vehicle as best as you can, for as long as you can, is paramount to protecting them and ensuring their continued well-being.