Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Extended rear-facing car seat

As a mother there are some issues that I feel very strongly about that relate to my children.  In general, I try to not be preachy about these issues because I know that some of them can cause a lot of tension and anger in some individuals (like circumcision, which I am against by the way).  However, there is one issue that I have had arguments about with other parents that I can't back down on - extended rear facing car seats.  I firmly believe that keeping your child in their car seat rear facing for as long as possible is one of the best ways to keep them safe in the car and studies, statistics, and laws in other countries firmly back me up on this.

The law and rule of thumb in the US is to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until they weigh 20 pounds and are 1 year of age.  But, babies should be in rear-facing car seats for as long possible because there are many safely advantages.  Studies have shown that toddlers are five times safer if they remain rear-facing until the age of two and in many other countries it's normal to have kids up to ages 3 and 4 rear-facing.  The current US law is a bare minimum standard (one that many people are trying to change).

When a child is in a crash their "ride-down time" (the time it takes for the forces of the crash to be distributed over their body and come to a stop) is lengthen when they are rear-facing.  This means that the force of the crash on their body is less because it takes a longer time for the force to be distributed.  Less force and a longer ride-down time means a reduced chance of injury and body trauma from a sudden stop.  Babies and toddlers do not have muscles that are as well developed in their head, neck, and back as adults do which makes them much more prone to spinal cord, neck, and head injuries in crashes so any advantage to lessening the impact on these vital parts of the body is critical.

The most common complaint I hear is that their baby has legs that are long enough to touch the back of the seat which makes many parents believe that rear-facing would increase their risk of leg injuries.  Studies and research have not shown this and if the forces in a crash are bad enough to break their legs then they would also be bad enough to break a neck (a broken leg is much easier to recover from than a broken neck!).  Most convertible car seats on the market today have a rear-facing weight of 35 pounds.  This means that most children can ride rear-facing until they are at least two years of age (Dominic will reach the 35 pound mark shortly after his second birthday if he keeps up his current weight gain rate).

To me, it's not a question of comfort or what is "normal", it's a matter of my sons safety and I won't take chances with that.  I know that the chance of getting into a crash is very slim but I can not risk his safety when something as simple as keeping him rear-facing for an extra year can dramatically improve his safety if we did end up in a crash.

If I haven't changed your mind then watch this video and pay attention to differences of the child crash test dummy in the front-facing versus the rear-facing car seat near the end.  Seeing that will surely change your mind for you.

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