What Parents Need To Know About Rear-Facing Car Seats
Over the weekend, car seats became a political issue when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed House Bill 448, which would have required children under 2 years old to be secured in a rear-facing car seat while in a moving vehicle and it would have penalized drivers who fail to follow the new guidelines.
Texas law already requires children younger than 8 years old or shorter than 57 inches to be secured in a car seat and that the car seat be installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. The current law does not specifically mention car safety guidelines for children under 2 years old.
Following the veto, Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, who authored the bill said to The Dallas Morning News: “The governor’s veto sends the irresponsible message that it doesn’t matter if a child under age 2 is rear-facing. It does matter, because it is proven to save young lives.”
In much of the medical community, the talk among experts has shifted away from the age of the children to simply keeping them safely in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible. In 2018, the American Academy Of Pediatrics updated its recommendations on car seats for children. The AAP recommends children remain in a rear-facing car safety seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed.
Benjamin Hoffman, M.D., FAA, the lead author of the policy statement and chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, said newer car seats allow children to remain rear-facing until they weigh 40 pounds or more, meaning most kids can remain rear-facing past their second birthday.
“It’s best to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. This is still the safest way for children to ride,” Dr. Hoffman said. “Car seats are awesome at protecting children in a crash, and they are the reason deaths and injuries to children in motor vehicle crashes have decreased. But that also means we just don’t have a large enough set of data to determine with certainty at what age it is safest to turn children to be forward-facing. If you have a choice, keeping your child rear-facing as long as possible is the best way to keep safe.”
Nationally, car crashes remain a leading cause of death for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that over the last 10 years, 4 children under 14 died each day.
Last year at Cook Children’s, 37 kids, who were 2 years of age and under, were involved in motor vehicle crashes, including five deaths (the most in at least five years). According to Cook Children's Trauma team, there have been 205 children in that age range invovled in wrecks and 12 deaths since 2014.
Motor Vehicle Crashes
Total Motor Vehicle Crashes
Spinal cord injury is a major concern for children who have transitioned from rear-facing to forward-facing or booster seat too soon. Melodie Davis, director of the Pediatric ICU, Transitional Care Unit and Rehabilitation Care Unit at Cook Children’s, said a young child’s head is so heavy as a toddler that it whips and causes damage.
“Properly used car seats protect children from injury and death,” Davis said. “Infants and toddlers are at risk for head, neck, and spine injuries during car crashes because their heads are large and heavy compared to their bodies. When placed rear-facing, the car seat can better support these high-risk areas because the seat is able to absorb the force of the crash. Unfortunately, we see significant neck injuries with cord damage in incorrectly used car seats. Another common injury includes traumatic brain injuries because of the force of the crash. Following proper car seat use guidelines can significantly decrease injuries and death in children.”
- Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more.
- Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, until they reach the height and weight limits for their seats. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.
- When children exceed these limits, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly. This is often when they have reached at least 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 to 12 years old.
- When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.
- All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.
Using the right car safety seat or booster seat lowers the risk of death or serious injury by more than 70 percent, according to the AAP. Parents are suggested to check the instruction manual and the labels on a car safety seat to find the manufacturer’s weight and height limits. When a child is approaching the limit, it’s time to think about transitioning to the next stage.
“We hope that by helping parents and caregivers use the right car safety seat for each and every ride that we can better protect kids, and prevent tragedies,” said Dr. Hoffman.
Free Car Seat Checks
Did you know that 4 out of 5 car seats are installed incorrectly? Safe Kids Tarrant County has six car seat fitting stations around the metroplex where you can make an appointment with a certified technician for a FREE car seat fitting.
Below is a listing of our upcoming fitting events. Please call 682-885-2634 to book your appointment. Those without appointments will be seen on a first come/first seen basis. You MUST have your child with you, unless you are an expectant parent.
For More On This Topic: