Why Experts Say It’s Important To Keep Your Child Rear-Faced Until Age Two

July 26th, 2018 by
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Photo Credit/Copyright: fatherly.com

According to the consensus of the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are recommended to stay in rear-facing car seats at least until the age of two. Based on decades of research, studies have shown that children under two are safer riding backwards versus forwards. However, some parents are adamant about keeping their kids rear-facing even after they turn two. Is this a bit of an over reach or the new best practice in child safety?  

Why Ride Backwards?

According to carseatsforthelittles.org, only 7 percent of fatal car crashes involve rear impacts, and the vast majority (60-80 percent) of fatal crashes come from the front or side of the vehicle (The remaining percentage is related to non-impact or unknown causes.). As a result of this, maintaining your child rear-facing puts the odds in your and their favor. Additionally, in the event of a serious crash, those odds include your child being protected from snapping forward into the harness, and instead, experience crash forces that are evenly distributed along the car seat and fall right back into the car seat. That way, your little ones neck and spine are completely protected.

The Laws of Physics

Ever wonder why it’s so crucial for crash forces to be evenly distributed into the seat, instead of across the harness unevenly? Well, just like there are three sides to every story, every crash involves three collisions – the vehicle hitting an object, the body of the child striking the harness, and the internal organs hitting the inside of the body. For instance, in a head-on collision, if the child is already rear-faced, they aren’t traveling into the actual car seat rather than being pushed further into it. Since the second and third collisions occur at about the same time, the odds of organ damage are slimmer.

Please keep in mind, these aren’t forces to be reckoned with. Another good example, imagine a 20 lb toddler traveling at 30 mph would require 600 lbs of preventative force to keep the little one in place. Basically, in the event of a serious front-end collision, a forward-facing child traveling at 30 mph, snaps forward and feels 600 lbs pushing back from the car seat straps. However, during a front-end collision, a rear-facing child will be forced into the back of the car seat by the same amount of force which would distribute the force of the motion across the entire torso and against the entire car seat instead of only the straps.    

Protect Those Bones

Before kids hit the age of two, there is only a 50 percent chance that the vertebrae in their neck have finished converting from cartilage into bone. Let’s say you’re involved in a front-end collision with your toddler facing forward, picture hundreds of pounds of stopping force deployed on the harness as your child snaps forward. How will that affect their little developing body?

The spinal cord is the first at risk. The vertebrae in small children contains tiny bits of cartilage that will merge into bone over a period of time. In most cases, a child won’t have a strong enough spine until the age of six. When an adult suddenly jerks forward, their body vertebrae usually prevents the spinal cord from stretching too much. If a toddler experiences those same forces, it could potentially cause long term damage. Essentially, a harness is there to protect your child’s torso, however, it does little to avoid their spinal cord from snapping in the event of a high-speed collision. Parents should position their child’s car seat so that the harness has less of a chance to be what stops your child from flying towards the point of impact. Statistics tell us that the most productive way in accomplishing this would be by keeping your child rear-facing.

“Rear facing is not a choice to be made based on parenting style or opinion; it’s one based on scientific fact,” according to the non-profit Car Seat For The Littles. “The more we know about physics and physiology, the better we’re able to protect our kids from severe injury.”