Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Extended Rear-Facing

Extended Rear-Facing (ERF) is the act of keeping your child rear-facing in their car seat for as long as possible.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children should remain in a rear-facing car seat until at least 1 year of age and 20lbs.  If you ask most parents, this is the recognized threshold for when to turn your child around into a forward-facing position. 

Some parents turn the seat at this age because they think...

...that's when it should be done (that is the generally recommended guideline, after all).

...the child is no longer safe because their feet or legs are touching the back of the seat.

...it's easier to keep an eye on their child when they're facing forward.

...that their child is bored staring at the back of a seat while in the car.

...that their child is uncomfortable because their feet or legs are touching the back of the seat.

The truth is, rear-facing in a vehicle is the safest place for a child so it's beneficial to keep a child rear-facing for as long as possible. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain rear-facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer.  There is no general rule for when to turn your child, but rather it depends on the model of car seat that you have. 

Convertible car seats vary in price, but most are safe for rear facing up to 35 pounds.  Some even go up to 45 lbs.  On average, a child will not reach 35 lbs until they are 3 to 4 years of age.  Check your car seat's guidelines for the specifics of your model's weight and height limits.

Why should you choose extended rear-facing for your child?

Car accidents are the leading cause of death among children under 14 years of age.  {source}

Rear-facing is safer in the event of a frontal or frontal-offset impact car crash.  According to Crashtest.Com, frontal and frontal-offset crashes combine for about 72% of severe crashes.  Side impacts are about 24%.  Rear and rear offset crashes only account for about 4%.  The odds of being in a frontal crash with a fatality or very serious injury are many times greater than being in a severe rear-end crash. {source}

Because of this, being in the proper position in the event of a frontal impact crash is of the utmost importance.  When a child is rear-facing in a car seat, the force of a frontal collision is spread throughout the child's body while it is cradled by the car seat, which protects the child's body, neck, head and organs and very importantly keeps the child's head from being snapped forward. 

A child's body is underdeveloped when compared with an adult's.  Their spinal column is comprised of both cartilage and bone making it more flexible than an adult's.  If a child's head is snapped forward in a collision it is much too easy for them to sustain spinal column injuries, which can leave them paralyzed or dead. 

Flexibility also allows for children to be more comfortable in a rear-facing position than many adults perceive.  Children can sit with their legs crossed in a car seat and still remain comfortable and safe.  There has been no research which shows that it's no longer safe to rear-face because a child's feet or legs can touch the back of a seat.  Car seat safety isn't about the position of a child's legs, it's about protecting their body, organs, head, and neck from trauma in the event of a car accident. 

Research from the AAP finds that children are up to 5 times safer when rear-facing in a car.  Data show that it is particularly important to keep children rear-facing between the ages of 1 and 2 years of age. 

In Scandinavian countries, children are often kept rear-facing much longer than in Europe or North America, even to 3 or 4 years old while ERF here is considered to be around 2 years of age.   Because of this, auto-related injury and death rates for rear-facing children in countries like Sweden are near zero. {source}

If you still need additional convincing that extended rear-facing is the best choice for your child, YouTube has numerous heart-wrenching videos regarding the importance of car seat safety both from a research standpoint and from the urging of families which have lost children or whose children have sustained life changing injuries because of car accidents. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing - extra glad I decided to keep Jack rear facing!


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