Fort Worth, Texas,
23
February
2015
|
06:05 PM
America/Chicago

Age rule may grow for children in rear-facing car seats

Summary

Although the number of crash-related injuries treated at Cook Children’s Medical Center has decreased slightly since 2012, the number of deaths has spiked from zero to five in 2014. As a Level II Trauma Center, Cook Children’s Medical Center receives the most severe cases. Sadly, the children who are severely injured or killed from car accidents were not in a car seat.

Changes may be coming to the state’s child safety seat law.

Legislation was recently introduced that would update existing law to require children to be placed in a rear-facing safety seat until they are at least 2 years old or their weight/height exceeds the limit of the seat. Under current law, parents are required to keep their children in a rear-facing car seat until they turn 1 or weigh more than 40 pounds.

From the Texas Department of Public Safety:

 

2013 Child Passenger Safety National Best Practice Recommendations

Phase 1

Rear-Facing Seats

Infants: Birth – 35+ pounds, 2+ years old. Rear-facing infant or rear-facing convertible safety seat as long as possible, up to the rear-facing height or weight limit of the seat. Properly install according to instructions in owner’s manual, rear-facing in the back seat.

Phase 2

Forward-facing Seats

When children outgrow the rear-facing safety seat (2+ years), they should ride in a forward-facing safety seat as long as possible, up to the upper height or weight limit (40 – 80+ pounds) of the harnesses. Usually 4+ years old. Properly installed forward-facing in the back seat. NEVER turn forward-facing before child meets all: AGE/HEIGHT/WEIGHT requirements set by safety seat manufacturer for forward-facing.

Phase 3

Booster Seats

After age 4 and 40+ pounds, children can ride in a booster seat with the adult lap and shoulder belt until the adult safety belt will fit them properly (usually when the child is 4'9" tall, 10 – 12 years old). MUST have a lap/shoulder belt to use a booster seat.

The intent of the Bill is to help protect thousands of young lives and allow standards to fall in line with recommendations set by the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, car crashes are a leading cause of death among children ages 3 to 14. From 2002 to 2011, about 9,000 children under the age of 12 died in car accidents, the agency’s statistics show. Correctly using a child safety seat can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent.

“We know that car seats are working,” said Sharon Evans, Trauma Injury Prevention/Outreach coordinator for Cook Children’s Medical Center. “Research shows that a properly installed rear-facing car seat is five times safer and can dramatically reduce the risk of head, neck and spinal cord injury if your child is involved in a crash.”

Similar legislation is being considered in other states, including Wisconsin.

Opponents of these measures argue that enforcing updated child safety seat laws is difficult and would confuse parents who may think their child is too old or too tall to remain in a rear-facing safety seat. Fort Worth resident and parent Tiffany Morgan disagrees.

As a former pediatric trauma ICU nurse, Morgan saw the results of the worst car accidents come through the hospital: head injuries, including skull fractures, bleeding in the brain and other severe brain injuries, broken arms, broken legs and severed spines. For her, the tipping point came when there was loss of life.

“Seeing what I saw from an injury standpoint imprints the reality of the situation on you forever,” said Morgan, who is now a trauma nurse practitioner at Cook Children’s Medical Center. “You change the way you live. You have a different perspective on reality.”

She has decided to keep her children, June, 3½ years old and 37 inches tall, and Max, 19 months, in rear-facing car seats as long as she can, per AAP recommendations.

“Anything that can be done to protect our children from needless injury and death has my support,” Morgan said. “Most accidents happen within three blocks of a person’s destination. The key is securing children for what could be the worst accident imaginable. I made my decision based purely on what is safest for my children if they were ever to be involved in an accident. What if a guy T-bones us at 60 miles an hour? That’s what I worry about.”

 

Evans is a certified child passenger safety technician/instructor and teaches parents how to properly install and use car seats correctly at the Medical Center.

“If your child is injured in a car accident, there are no do-overs,” she said. “It’s important to keep your children rear-facing as long as possible to keep them protected and to reduce the risk of injury.”

Research has shown that riding rear-facing is the best way to take an impact during a crash, and countries such as Sweden have made it standard practice to keep children rear-facing until they are the age of 5, or weigh as much as 55 pounds.

The debate about rear-facing safety seats was not on the radar of Fort Worth resident Derrick Bledsoe. That all changed a year ago when he read an article about car seat safety practices in Sweden and other countries. For Bledsoe, a father of two toddlers, it was an eye-opening revelation.

“It was startling to me. I had never heard of that practice before,” he said. “That led me to start doing research on child physiology and development. The majority of wrecks happen from a front-end standpoint, so when a child is pushed back into a supportive seat rather than just a harness, it’s a no-brainer for me.”

Bledsoe plans to keep his daughters, Camilia, 20 months, and Victoria, 15 months, in rear-facing car seats until they reach the weight/height limit. He encourages parents to research the subject before formulating a final decision.

“If you turn kids around in a car too soon, it could cause awful if not fatal damage should an accident occur,” he said. “My job as a parent is to do what is best for my daughters. It’s my job to protect them. I’m doing this to keep them safe.”

For more information

Every year children are rushed to the emergency room to be treated for car related injuries, many don't even involve traffic or another car. Some injuries occur without the car ever leaving the driveway. Here are some of the top dangers to be aware of and the key things you can do to help make your car safer for your kids. Learn more about car safety here. Learn more about safety and prevention here.

Comments 1 - 8 (8)
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Jennifer
03
March
2015
I must be missing something - there is NO way my 3-5yo child will be able to sit rear facing. At 36-42" their legs will be going up the back seat, in an awkward, albeit, uncomfortable position. Up to 5 years, don't get it. All for keeping backward facing as long as possible though!
carol
04
March
2015
I have pt I care for, a 3 yr old who is tall enough that in rear facing, he has to cross his legs to fit, forward facing his ankles on - dangle over, but due to medical problems is only 27 lbs. forward or reverse?
JB
04
March
2015
"1 year old–4 years old and 20 pounds–40 pounds: Use a forward-facing seat for as long as is recommended by the manufacturer"Is this an error?? Shouldn't it say "rear-facing seat" instead of "forward facing seat" based on the content of this article and the recommendations by the AAP? This could lead to confusion that defeats the purpose of the article, as some parents may already be confused about how long to rear face. If possible, this should be corrected. It would actually be best to write it as "a convertible seat in rear facing mode until the child outgrows the height or weight limits for rear-facing set by the manufacturer."
Sharon Evans
04
March
2015
Hi Jennifer,Thanks for your comment. There is lots of research showing rear facing is the safest, even astronaut’s re-enter the earth’s atmosphere on their backs. ('Humans are better able to withstand g-forces perpendicular to the spine, which is why these astronauts are on their backs for re-entry.')So although we know rear facing is the safest way to ride in the car, we do have to look at each individual child. People from Sweden keep the child rear facing until 4 years of age but their car seats and certainly their culture is very different than ours. The older children I have seen who are still rear facing appear very comfortable. Children of course are much more flexible than we are and they sit with their legs criss-cross or up the back of the vehicle seat. I think the most convincing research/evidence I’ve seen for children to stay rear-facing is that they have found the spinal column (bones around the spinal cord) will stretch up to 2 inches, but their spinal cord breaks at ¼ inch. When children are forward facing their bodies are held back by the harness but their head (which is the largest part of their body until 2- 3 years of age) is thrown forward with the impact of the crash. It is up to each parent to make the decision as to what is best for their child.My goal is to make sure parents have the best information to make that decision with.
Sandy Delaney
04
March
2015
My grandson was 4 years old before I turned him around forward facing. When his torso got too long for the seat I was using, I put him forward facing and used the seat as a booster. He did not like being forward facing at all! My grandson sat crisscross or propped his legs on the seat. Kids can be comfortable in positions we cannot. I encourage each of you to seek out a Child Passenger Safety Technician in your area and understand the way the seat is designed to work (ie: riding down the crash, etc..) But here is something I heard years ago about the legs. Break a leg, we can fix it...break a neck it may be casket!
JB
05
March
2015
Thanks for the correction! The chart that is there now is much more descriptive.
Abigail
05
March
2015
For those who want more info on the legislation itself: Representative Chris Turner of Arlington/Grand Prairie is the one who has introduced the legislation in question. NBC did a segment in January about it: http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Texas-Legislation-Would-Require-Rear-Facing-Car-Seats_Dallas-Fort-Worth-290263041.htmlThey say more details about the proposed legislation - that it would enforce "... all children under 2 to be in rear-facing car seats, unless the child's height and weight exceeds the limits set by the manufacturer".At the risk of posing a politically-explosive question, how is this legislation going to help? Those accidents that cause the most damage to children are, by this page's Summary's own admission, those without car seats at all. How will a broader enforcement of more difficult or stringent guidelines related to car seats do anything but cause more parents not to bother with car seats, much less adhere to greater restrictions governing their use? Not only that, parents who are already paying attention to car seat regulations and car seat manufacturer's guidelines (and following them) are most likely NOT the ones whose children are injured or dying due to car accidents, anyways.It seems like a complete waste of government time and money on legalities, instead of on something like public service announcements, advocate programs, or car seat assistance networks. (You know, something practical.)
Marilee Babler
11
March
2015
I have a few concerns-1-The beginning of the article states that the deaths that occurred were due to NOT using a car seat, not from the child being forward facing as opposed to rear facing. If this is true then the statistics concerning the deaths are actually not applicable to the argument that children need to remain rear facing a long as possible.2- I have been told that to sit with legs criss-crossed aggravates a child's hips, in turn attributing to long term hip issues. Keeping a child rear facing where they are unable to straighten the legs would seem to be a much more common (and often lifelong) issue than the difference between death resulting from rear facing to forward facing of children and toddlers, excluding infants with softer bones, etc.Does anyone have an opinion?