January 10, 2013

Why Extended Rear Facing?

Before I became a mother and even while I was pregnant I always assumed that Evie would ride in her rear facing carrier seat until she was one year old and at least twenty pounds. I honestly looked forward to the day she would front face in her car seat and we would be able to interact more.
On March 20, 2011 I heard a news story on the radio stating that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement recommending that children stay rear facing in their car seats until at least age two. Previously, the AAP recommended that a child be kept rear facing as long as possible but at least until age one and twenty pounds. I won't say this was a real game changer for me. I'm a rule follower by nature so if rear facing was the rule then I'd follow the rule.
As time went on I began researching the why's behind this change in policy statement. The information was eye opening, kind of jarring and made me more determined to keep Evie rear facing as long as possible (meaning until she outgrows the height and weight restrictions on her car seat). From reputable sources I have learned the following:
  • When a child is rear facing and is in a severe frontal or offset collision the car seat is able to absorb the energy of the crash and distribute it over the child's entire body preventing severe spinal, head and neck injuries. It's important to note that this is not true for rear end collisions.
  • However, according to CPS Safety rear end collisions account for only 4% of all vehicle collisions and are much less likely to be deadly. Most rear end collisions occur when one vehicle is already stopped. Frontal or offset collisions total for the other 96% of collisions. These collisions are much more likely to have serious or fatal injuries because usually both cars are in motion. Basic physics, statistics and common sense tells us that having your child in a rear facing car seat is the safer option.
  • According to Car Seat Safety vehicle collisions are the number one cause of death for children under the age of fourteen. That's huge.
  • A photo comparison of a forward facing and rear facing child in a front end collision. Notice how the child on the left is slung forward with hi neck and spine absorbing most of the injury, while the child on the right is not in motion with the car seat absorbing the majority of the energy.

Photo courtesy of University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute
Car seat safety is something has become very important to me. It shocks me the number of people who think that extended rear facing is weird or some related to a parenting style like attachment parenting. People need to understand that this is NOT about parenting style. This is about keeping our babies as safe as possible in a one ton hunk of metal that is rolling down the road. Furthermore, it doesn't bother Evie. It's all she's ever known. She's perfectly comfortable in her seat and I intend to keep her that way as long as possible.
Car Safety Seats for Children: Rear Facing for Best Protection (this is the study that the AAP used to determine its revised decision)
CarSafety.org (Link to the Car Safety site on rear facing)
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