By Yossi Siegel. I hope that parents gained some helpful knowledge from my last two articles on shopping cart safety, part 1 and part 2. Today’s article will focus on the basics of car seat safety, specifically infant seats. We all love our children and want to keep them as safe as possible. Car seats can be confusing. Rear facing, forward facing, booster, convertible, high back. There are so many terms to learn, so let’s break it down with some basic facts.
The safest place for a child is in the back seat of a car, in the middle position; or, in the case of a mini- van, the middle row. This position offers the most cushioning in the event of a crash. Sitting next to a window when the car gets hit on that side means your body is inches from contact with the collision. Sitting in the middle of the seat gives you a few feet of space that acts as a cushion as the car is impacted.
The safest way to sit in a car is rear facing. If we could all sit rear facing while driving, accident related deaths and injuries would be reduced significantly. This is because in a frontal crash, the impact is spread over the entire length of the back. Think about when you come to a short stop and the seat belt presses into your chest. When rear facing, the same force is spread out over a much larger area so the damage is much less. Plus, infants and young toddlers have very soft and undeveloped chest bones, so if they are facing forward in a frontal collision, or even a short stop, the belts pressing into their chest and abdomen can do a lot of damage. It also prevents that head snap you get when you stop short or are in a frontal collision. Instead of snapping forward, their heads get pressed into the back of the soft, cushioned seat.
During car seat installation demonstrations, parents ask me how soon they can turn their infant around. They are excited about being able to see the child and interact with him during a trip. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping your child rear facing as long as possible, up to the weight limit of the seat. The current age, which used to be at least 1 year, has been moved up to at least 2 years. Keep in mind that when your infant is too heavy for the infant carrier seat and you purchase the next car seat called a “convertible”, most of those can also be installed rear facing up to a higher weight range, such as 35 pounds.
Need more proof? Here are two videos that demonstrate that great differences between rear facing and forward facing during a frontal collision. (In case you are wondering, frontal collisions account for over 70% of serious collisions, which is why we seat our children for optimal safety in that type of crash)
This first video is a computer animation showing the difference in body movement between rear and forward facing.
This second video is an actual crash test with dummies in both rear and forward facing positions
The child on the left is facing forward, the child on the right is rear facing, during a simulated frontal crash. Look at the difference in the movement of the head, neck, arms and legs.
These shocking videos show how much safer your child will be staying rear facing as long as possible.
Some common questions or complaints I hear about keeping a child rear facing:
- “But his feet are so long, he has to bend them while sitting rear facing, isn’t that dangerous? No! There is no health risk associated with sitting with bent knees, and it does not affect the safety of the car seat.
- “But he cries when he can’t see me and it’s hard for me to console him” Would you rather him cry out of annoyance, or you be the one crying if g-d forbid he was injured in a crash?
- “My child gets motion sickness facing backwards.” Most kids who get car sick facing backwards will also get car sick facing forward.
Again, keep your child rear facing as long as possible. In some European countries, it is a requirement until ages 4 or 5. Check the manual that came with the infant seat or convertible. It will tell you the maximum child weight for the rear facing position. Make a commitment to keep him backwards until that weight and you are assuring him a safer trip!
Stay tuned for the next article which will focus on convertible forward facing seats and booster seats.
Thanks for the Eye Opener!!!…While we’re on the Child Safety topic …may I suggest a NO SMOKING RULE while children are passengers in a Vehicle….
Thank you! As a mother who kept my 2 kids rearfacing til they hit 35 lbs (which came at 2 years exactly..theyre both big for their ages) I’m glad youre spreading awareness about this. I get ill to my stomach seeing toddlers and preschoolers in lap belts or unrestrained around town and when I’ve kindly approached the mother (and even a father once) I was met with blank stares. Doesnt anybody care about their kids anymore?
Thanks for the positive responses. Feel free to visit my safety blog at http://safetyjew.blogspot.com/
Id like to point out that as a babysitter in this town most babies come either unbuckled or just with the chest clip closed – the lazy parents cant be busy to click in the bottom of the infant seats just to go a min away – did you know your baby could wiggle down and get choked from that or worse??? take the time and buckle your kids ALWAYS!!!!!
Also, an alarming number of car seats are installed incorrectly. Bring your car to a car seat safety check!
I can not thank you enough for printing this article as many of us are preparing to take long trips to go away for pesach. My child just turned 12 months and i asked my husband to install the convertible carseat forward facing. I was sure that this is the time to turn her carseat around. Now that i have read your article and watched the videos i am so thankful for this pertinent info! I will not be turning her carseat around any time soon!!!! Thank you!!!
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