Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Don't Turn Around

Now that Elijah is a year old and (finally) weighs 20 pounds, several people have asked me when we're going to turn his carseat around. The answer is that having him forward-facing in the car isn't a milestone I'm looking forward to--it's one I'm hoping to delay as long as possible. He'll stay rear-facing as long as it's safe to do so, which for his carseat means when he weighs 35 pounds or when his head is above the top of the seat.

Wouldn't he be happier if he could face forward? Maybe. Wouldn't it be easier for us to give him toys or snacks? Sure. But he's safer facing the rear, and isn't that the main goal? Scandinavian countries actually recommend rear-facing in the car up to age four. And there's plenty of data to support this recommendation. Here's a short video of a crash test showing dummies in both front and rear-facing seats:

From CarSeatSite.com:

"Rear-facing...reduces the risk of death by 71%. ...[In one study], forward-facing children under the age of 2, especially those in side impacts, were 75% more likely to be injured. Why? It's because of the way the rear-facing car seat protects a child. It cradles the head, neck, and back.

"The most common type of crash is the frontal crash. In a frontal crash, the entire back of a rear-facing car seat absorbs crash forces, protecting the child's head, neck, and spine. In the less common, but more injurious side impact crash, the rear-facing car seat again protects the head, neck and back. Since there's almost always an element of forward motion in a side impact—such as when a vehicle is going straight through an intersection when it's struck in the side by a red-light runner—a rear-facing seat does a better job of keeping a child's head contained within the safety of the seat."

Have you ever noticed how gigantic a baby's head is compared to the rest of his body? Their head size is completely out of proportion--a baby can't even touch his hands together above his head. A newborn's head is approx 25% of his/her body weight. If that were true of adults, my head would weigh 32 pounds! But an adult's head is only about 6-8% of his/her body weight. Children are top-heavy, which affects the way their bodies move in a crash. Not only this, but their bones are less rigid than an adult's bones:

"very young children have immature and incompletely ossified bones that are soft and will deform and/or separate under tension, leaving the spinal cord as the last link between the head and the torso. ...the spinal cord ruptures if stretched more than 1/4 inch.

"Real accident experience has also shown that a young child's skull can be literally ripped from its spine by the force of a crash. Yes, the body is being held in place, but the head is not. When a child is facing rearward, the head is cradled and moves in unison with the body, so that there is little or no relative motion that might pull on the connecting neck." (source)

Keep your kids facing the rear as long as you can! That limit depends on your carseat--check the manual for guidelines.

For more information:

(P.S. - Bonus points to the first person who identifies the 90s pop song reference in the title :)


Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

Love your new layout!

Marianne said...

Awesome information. I just forwarded that article to my husband.

The Chinlund Family said...

Dang, Camine beat me. I have the entire song memorized... still. I'm singing it in my head right now :) Makes me want to dig out that old tape, and then try and track down a tape player :)

Bethany said...

Adelee is still rear facing too. Seth is still in a booster at almost age 8 even though CA law is 6...he doesn't know. I tell everyone that I don't follow law when it comes to car seats....I follow safety. It makes not sense to me why someone would turn their kid around or take them out of a booster when they are safer. Isn't that why we buy car seats in the first place.

I also have a thing against used car seats or worn out belts. I am a freak about car seats.

Michelle M. said...

Grace isn't big enough yet to have her carseat turned around. I think I will keep it that way; especially after reading this. Besides, David and Grace love interacting in the back seat.
Thanks for the information.