Rear-facing has been shown to be safer than forward-facing for young children due to their heavy heads and fragile necks. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children be buckled in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of a vehicle up to the age of two. Some states, including California, now mandate that children remain rear-facing up to age two or until they reach the height and weight limits for their seat. Infant-only car seats have weight limits ranging from 22 lbs to 35 lbs and many children reach the height limit even earlier. Some parents transition their children directly from an infant carrier to a forward-facing 5-point harness without understanding the risks involved in that decision.
Extended rear-facing is the practice of keeping children rear-facing beyond the age of two, typically until they outgrow the rear-facing limits of a convertible car seat around the age of 4. The radian rXT all-in-one convertible comfortably seats rear-facing children from 5-45 lbs and has rear-facing tether capability. The rainier convertible+booster extends rear-facing up to 50 lbs and has extra-deep side walls to provide enhanced side impact protection.
The History of Extended Rear-Facing
The idea of using rear-facing seats to transport young children was conceived by Professor Bertil Aldman of Chalmers University in Sweden. Inspired by the molded seats astronauts use at take-off and landing, Professor Aldman designed the first rear-facing car seat in 1963 to protect a child’s head, neck and spine. Since 1965 all Swedish children have been traveling rear-facing in the car until they are at least four years old, and the results have been dramatic.
Roads deaths and serious injuries in children under five have been virtually eliminated in Sweden.
Between 1992 and June 1997, only nine properly restrained rear-facing children died in car crashes in Sweden, and all of these were involved in catastrophic crashes with few or no other survivors. Between July 2006 and November 2007 not one child under the age of six died in Sweden due to a car accident. – Carseat.se on the Swedish rear-facing approach
By comparison, in the United States car crashes are still the leading cause of unintentional death and injury in children under the age of 13.
Ways to Ride Safely
Infant-Only Car Seat
Infant-only car seats typically consist of a carrier that attaches to a base that can stay permanently installed in the car. Many parents find these seats convenient because the carrier can be removed with baby safely harnessed. Most infant car seats are sold with the base, but not all. Some carriers are sold in combination with a stroller for a complete travel system.
Children who face the rear of the car are five times safer in a car crash. When a car seat is rear-facing, the back of the car seat totally supports the head, neck and vertebrae. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children stay rear-facing up to a minimum of age 2. Many convertible seats accommodate rear-facing beyond the average height and weight of a two-year-old.
When a child is anatomically ready to face the front of the car, a 5-point harness is still the optimum way to ride for a child under 40 lbs, 50 lbs and even 65 lbs.
Belt Positioning Booster
Booster seats are for children who are at least 5-12 years old and are mature enough to stay in the proper position. For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie across the upper thigh and not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie across the shoulder and chest, never the face or neck. Boosters should still be installed in the back seat and will buckle themselves into the seat.
Lap & Shoulder Belt
Generally, a child is ready for the adult seat belt when they are approximately 4′ 9″ tall and 80 lbs. The depth and width of the car’s seats should be considered as this will impact the way the lap and shoulder belt will fit the child. Again, the maturity level of your child to sit in proper position for the entire ride is a major consideration. Even if they are mature and fit in the seat belt, children under 13 years old are safest in the back seat, according to NHTSA.