Parents in New York have previously been advised to switch the direction of their children’s car seat after his or her first birthday. However, recent research suggests that this is too soon.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement last week reporting that children under the age of two were 75 percent less likely to suffer injures in a car accident when their seat was rear-facing.
According to the lead author of the study, children under the age of two do not have fully developed bones in their neck. This means that if they are in forward-facing car seats during accidents, their heads are more likely to fly forward. That type of whiplash can be fatal for young children. When the car seat is facing the rear, the child’s entire body is better supported.
The research also suggests that older children should use a booster seat while riding in the car. Booster seats help ensure seat belts fit properly fit across children’s bodies, increasing their safety in a crash. A booster seat should be used until the child is at least eight years old and more than 4 feet 9 inches tall.
Each change in a child’s seating arrangement – from rear-facing to forward-facing, etc. – decreases the child’s safety. Parents are urged to delay car seat transitions for as long as possible.
Rear-facing car seats are now built to accommodate children weighing more than 40 pounds, helping keep toddlers as safe as possible for as long as possible.
Source: New York Times, “Rear-Facing Car Seats Advised at Least to Age of 2,” Madonna Behen, 21 March 2011