There seem to be two new movements in the world of car seats:
A. A new study suggests that your 2, 3, and 4-year-olds should actually be facing the rear for their safety.
B. Community activism that higher weight and older kids should stay in 5-point harnesses and not move to boosters for their safety.
A new study in The British Medical Journal has found that children under 4 fare much better in accidents when they are rear-facing rather than facing front. Children are generally turned around at 1 years old AND 20 pounds. (The AND is often read as OR and that is wrong. Drives me crazy!)
“For example, there are data that many fatalities in young forward-facing riders could have been averted with a rear-facing seat. An analysis of US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data of 870 children involved in crashes from 1998 to 2003 found that through 23 months of age, better protection from all crash types was provided with rear-facing seats.”
“In terms of specific injuries, recent crash test results suggest that rear- rather than forward-facing seats provide better protection of the lower neck and chest, the authors note. In another crash simulation study, it was concluded that manufacturers should developed rear-facing seats for children up to 4 years old.”
“Watson and Monteiro note that in contrast to forward-facing seats, rear-facing seats provide full alignment of the head, neck, and spine, so that crash forces are dispersed over these areas rather than centered on one site.”
ABC News has a video on its site showing a crash test where you can see the difference in impact on a rear facing-seat and front-facing seat.
I totally understand the physics of how a child would be more protected facing the back, but what I can’t figure out is where in the world their legs are supposed to go? They tell you to switch them to the front because they say their necks are strong enough at 1, plus their legs are too long and could be hurt. So I don’t see in any of these news reports where a 2, 3 or 4, year-old legs are supposed to go.
The other big issue I keep hearing and seeing about is if older kids should be in a 5-point harness and not a booster seat. I received a call from a friend recently who had heard that some group was recommending that children up to 80 pounds be in a 5-point harness.
Now 80-pounds seems a little bit extreme but on the other end you’ve got a lot of parents moving children who are 3 into boosters and there are all these videos on You Tube about those children being killed in car accidents.
Here is one of those videos, plus a news report from Good Morning American on the topic.
Here’s what Georgia law says about car and booster seats:
- ALL children under the age of six, regardless of how tall they are, must ride in the backseat of a car. A child is safer in the back and farthest away from the force of an airbag. Remember that airbags are designed to save adults, and since they deploy with great force they can be fatal to children.
- Children under the age of six are required to be in either a car seat or a booster seat suitable for their age and height.
- If there is not a back seat in the vehicle (e.g., a truck) or if other restrained children are in the back seat, Georgia law permits a child under the age of six to sit in front if restrained in the proper car seat or booster.
- Failure to obey Georgia law can result in a fine of up to $50 and one point against your license per improperly restrained child. The fine and points may be doubled if a second incident occurs.
Four Steps to Safety (as recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
AGE LIMIT WEIGHT / HEIGHT LIMIT COMMENTS Infant Seat Newborn to 1 year
Less than 1 year
Up to 20 lbs.
These car seats should be rear-facing
For 20 lb.+ babies, use a seat recommended for heavier infants
Toddler Seat 1-4 years 20-40 lbs Child needs to be BOTH 1 year old and 20 lbs. or more before placed in a forward-facing seat Booster Seat From 4 years to at least 8 years Between 40-80 lbs; Under 4′9″ tall Booster seat should be used with lap and shoulder belt; Lap belt should rest across the lap-never the stomach Safety Belt Between 8-12 years Over 80 lbs; Taller than 4′9″
What do you think? Are you willing to turn your 2,3, or 4-year-old’s car seat back around? Do you think they would be safer? Can you figure out how that configuration would work with a toddler car seat? Also where do their legs go? Is there space in between the seat and the car? Could their little legs get crushed if they are hanging down? (I’m not against it. I just don’t understand.)
How long should kids stay in their 5-point-harness seats in general? When did you switch your kids over to a booster? What about 80-pound kids in 5-point-harness seats? I’m sure they would be safer, but would they let you do it? Would they protest?