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Published on May 01, 2012

time for a car seat check

Time For A Seat Check: Car Seat Safety, Part 1

You may have heard about the newest recommendation in car seats: keep infants and toddlers rear-facing until age two. Like most people, you probably thought that sounded impossible. But I assure you, it’s not.

My youngest daughter stayed rear-facing through her second birthday. (The picture is her on her birthday). She often sat with her legs dangling off of each side, or with her knees bent. Granted, it doesn’t look comfortable to me, and if I tried to ride like that, I wouldn’t be able to walk for a week! But remember, kids are not “little adults” and their joints are much more flexible than ours.

Rear-Facing Means Less Injury

Through research, we now know that a child is five times less likely to be seriously injured in a car accident if they remain rear-facing.

  • In a frontal crash, a child in a forward-facing car seat is much more likely to suffer neck and back injuries simply because they are sitting more upright with less support for their spine.
  • Rear-facing car seats may not be quite as effective in a rear-end crash, but severe frontal and frontal offset crashes are far more frequent and far more severe than severe rear-end crashes.

What If My Child Is Too Tall To Stay Rear-Facing?

If they have outgrown either the height or weight limit to remain rear-facing in your car seat, it is OK to turn them around before age two. Every car seat has the height and weight limits listed on a sticker on the side. You can also find them in the manual that comes with the car seat.

Ready For The Booster Seat?

When a child weighs 40 pounds and is at least four-years-old, they may move to a booster seat with a back. If they haven’t outgrown their car seat, leave them in it! For shorter children, the back on a booster helps to position the seat belt so it does not rub on their neck. Children should remain in a booster seat until they are at 57 inches tall (4 feet 9 inches). This is because seat belts are not designed for them; they are designed for adults.

What If I Can’t Afford A Car Seat?

Fortunately, there is a program called “Project 8” that helps supply car seats to families who cannot afford them. There are program offices all around the state.

If you’re looking for more information on car seats, the American Academy of Pediatrics has some great tips.

Part Two: How To Avoid Common Car Seat Errors

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