Age Is Just a Number: When to Switch Your Child from a Rear to Forward-Facing Carseat

We have previously discussed the dangers posed to children who are involved in car crashes while not properly restrained.  One question that pops up for parents of young children (myself included) is when to turn a rear-facing car seat forward.   

For me, turning my 2 year-old’s car seat forward will happen at a time that is a matter of necessity as he will soon be sharing the backseat with his baby sister and my car only has enough space for 1 rear-facing seat at a time.  Fortunately, my toddler will reach the weight limit for his rear-facing seat around the same time, so we are not turning him around prematurely. 

There is a great deal of conflicting information on the web about how long a child should be in a rear-facing seat.  The oldest standards we found said to turn children around at age 1 and later standards said to turn them around at age 2.  In fact, many state laws still dictate child restraint requirements by age, rather than by weight, which is an entirely outdated measure for safety.  The prevailing standard is that children should be in a rear-facing seat until they reach the height/weight limit dictated by the car seat in which they ride.  Age is just a number, because quite often, this height/weight limit will not be reached until your child is well past his 2nd (or even 3rd or 4th) birthday!     

Research has demonstrated that rear-facing is the safest position for babies and young toddlers to be in the event of a crash.  This is because of the side of their heads in relation to their bodies and because of the way crash forces are distributed through their bodies in rear versus forward-facing positions.  The risk of severe head, neck, and spine injuries is simply lessened when children are occupying properly installed rear-facing carseats.  A baby’s legs touching the back seat while she is rear-facing is NOT a good reason to face her forward.    

Keep and read your child’s safety restraint manual.  The restraints are most effective when installed properly and proper installation is not intuitive for everyone.  Didn’t keep your paper user’s manual for your child’s safety restraint?  Many manufacturers, like Graco, offer manuals for both old and new models (including height/weight restrictions for rear-facing seats) online:

It is crucial that parents and caregivers properly restrain children before every car ride.  Child restraints are very effective when used properly.  If the unthinkable happens and despite being properly restrained, your child is injured in a crash due to the negligence of another driver, contact the Colorado Springs Injury Attorneys at Rosenbaum & Wootton, P.C. by calling 719.634.0102 or by clicking on this link to schedule your FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.

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