I've noticed many members have infants and toddlers, while this information may seem moot to a lot of members here I'd thought post anyways.
A baby's head accounts for 25% of its body weight, while an adult's head is only 6% of the total body weight. And children's bones are still very soft, it takes about 15 years for the human skeleton to fully mature. The development of the skeleton happens at roughly the same rate in all children, no matter how big they are, so a bigger baby is no safer in a forward facing seat than a small one.
The human spine is made up of 24 vertebrae, seven cervical (neck), 12 thoracic (upper back) and five lumbar (lower back) vertebrae. In a one year-old each vertebra consists of three pieces of bone which are connected by cartilage. The vertebrae start to fuse together at the age of three, when the small bits at the bottom fuse together. It takes until they're six years old for the three pieces of bone to form a sold 'ring' around the spinal cord.
The bones in the neck of a small child are not developed enough to protect the spinal cord. When they are involved in a car crash in a forward facing car seat, the weight of the head combined with the immature skeleton, can cause the spinal cord to stretch up to two inches. If it stretches just half an inch it will snap. This is known as internal decapitation and causes paralysis or death.
A toddler's ribs are also very soft. In a forward facing car seat the force of the crash throws the child forward while the five-point harness holds the torso back in the seat. This can bend the ribs and damage the child's internal organs.
The idea of transporting young children rear facing in the car was conceived by Professor Bertil Aldman of Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden in the early 1960s. He was inspired by the moulded rear facing seats astronauts used for take-off and landing. He designed the first rear facing child car seat in 1963.
Since 1965 all Swedish children have been travelling rear facing in the car until they are at least four years old, and the results speak for themselves. II the UK about 200 children are seriously injured in car accidents every year and a further 21 are killed. On Sweden's roads deaths and serious injuries in children under five have been virtually eliminated.
Between 1992 and June 1997, only nine properly restrained rear facing children died in car crashes in Sweden, and all of these were involved in catastrophic crashes with few or no other survivors. Between July 2006 and November 2007 not one child under the age of six died in Sweden due to a car accident. And their car seats continue to achieve the same fantastic survival rates, year after year. Unless a car catches fire, is crushed by a lorry or cut in half by a tree, children in rear facing car seats simply don't die in car accidents in Sweden.
Rear facing is the safest way for anyone to travel. In the most common and deadly accidents (which are usually offset frontal collisions) the head, neck and spine are all cradled against the back of a car seat. The AAP and NHTSA have released new minimum guide lines for rear facing. The AAP recommends the minimum to turn a child forward facing is 2 years old (AAP Updates Recommendation on Car Seats), the NHTSA suggest 3 years old or until the child seat is outgrown for rear facing (Car Seats for Children: 1 to 3 Years Old | National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)). The longer a child can stay rear facing, the safer they are while traveling.
Many parents think that their legs touching the backseat, a rear facing seat is outgrown, this is very incorrect. There are actually more reports of children breaking their legs forward facing in their car seats due to their limbs are thrown violently forward and impact a object (ie: vehicle seat) in front of them, NONE reported from rear facing. A impact that can break a limb, can also break a child's neck (called internal decapitation). It only take 1/4 of a inch to snap a child's spinal cord. With a baby, toddlers and even preschoolers heads so much larger than their bodies, in a violent collision, their heads are thrown forward putting a lot of stress on their necks. When rear facing, their heads and necks are cradled by the car seat.
Here are some videos showing children of all ages rear facing in car seats. We now within the US have car seats that rear face to 45 lbs and also a 50 lbs car seat called a Foonf, by the company called Clek, the seat I own for my daughter. A car seat is outgrown rear facing when the child reaches the maximum rear facing weight stated by the car seat manufacture for that seat or they have less than 1 inch of hard shell left over their head.
Meet Joel - he was 18 months old and 33 lbs at the time of his accident. His grandfather has been a huge asset to keeping kids rear facing due to what his grandson has gone through.
YouTube - Front facing or Rear facing? Car seat safety TRUE STORY crash test videos
This video, even though it's from another country, shows the dynamics of a collision forward facing vs rear facing (Sweden, the leader in child passenger safety, rear faces their kids to a minimum of 4 years old).
YouTube - Rear facing vs forward facing position in the car
This is one of my favorite videos
YouTube - The Importance of Rear-Facing
Recently, a personal friend of mine was involved in a side impact and roll over accident, you can read about it here: CarseatNanny: Why I do what I do The only person not injured in the accident was her 3 year old who was rear facing.
For help with your child safety seat, you can contact a CPST through safekids.org Find a Inspection Station click on your state and a list of inspection stations will come up. These CPST's will show you how to use your child safety seat and install it, their goal is to teach you, the parent/caregiver how to use and install your own seat so if it has to be removed, you are confident in your abilities to do it yourself.
The safest car seat out there is one that fits your child, your vehicle and used and installed properly 100% of the time. There is no brand that is safer than the other. All seats sold within the US have to pass the same safety standards to be sold to the public. None of the car seat manufactures release their crash test data (except Sunshine Kids, but with nothing to compare it to, it's data is pretty useless), it is unknown what their scores are other than if it is for sale on the market, it passed.
Lastly, when installing your car seat you should check for movement at the belt path of the car seat to make sure that it's secure. A firm "hand shake" will suffice, if the seat moves less than an inch in either direction the seat belt or LATCH is tight enough. If your child is rear facing the straps should be coming from at or below shoulder level to prevent injury from shifting up in the seat in an accident. If your child is front facing the straps should be at or above shoulder level. When tightening the straps they need to pass the "pinch test" at the shoulders, if you can pinch any slack the straps aren't tight enough. Don't forget the chest clip needs to be a armpit level.
Here are two photos of my nearly two year old daughter rear facing, she'll likely rear face to four years old or when she outgrows her seat in weight or height.
Thanks for the info, I'll remember this for when I have my children with L...
But how do you keep an eye on what they're doing if they're facing away, eg. choking or vomiting?
Or just minimize the hazards and hope it doesn't happen?
@Mod There are plush mirror type things you can attach to the headrest if needed. I don't have a mirror for my daughter and the type of food I let her snack on is usually dissolved quickly if she were to choke. I didn't let Jaz loose with food till she was over a year old and slightly less impulsive at making a mess with food but for the most part I drive with the music off so I can hear if there was anything wrong. Plus I like the peace and quiet when she sleeps.
For vomiting, if you don't have the off market products (headrest or animal strap covers that didn't come with the seat) they can move their head freely to not choke on it. A newborn and and up till they gain head control will need to be at a 45° recline and I've never had an issue of my daughter choking leaning that far back. When they have head control they can be at a 30° recline and that wouldn't be an issue. I'm in a Facebook group with 14k+ for car seat safety and it's never been an issue, even with reflux babies.
Thanks for reading! It's good to know even before children, I didn't know I was doing everything wrong till my daughter was four months old and a Child Passenger Safety Technician pointed out my mistakes.
*scribbles in notebook*
Thanks for tips, Professor Meagan!
This is the exact reason I drive backwards!
@Meagan - I absolutely adore you for posting this. You go girl! My son will be rear facing for as long as possible. Until it isn't safe for him to be rearfacing anymore. Soooooo many people get excited about flipping them around the first chance they get. Not I! I just posted something about this on facebook. In fact I had to double take when I saw the thread because I was wondering if I was on facebook lol.
@jet I always see people posting on Facebook about flipping their baby forward at months old, as if it's a milestone. It makes me cringe. I have a few EMT friends and it's sad hearing how many children die from not being properly restrained or at all. I didn't give car seats much thought till actually having children but there's a lot of info that's not really broadcasted. I post about it on FB occasionally and figure on here may help others in the future. Here's a group if you or anyone else is interested in joining if you ever need help and whatnot.
Proper installation is super important too. Also know what kind of things effect the car seats (like big fluffy jackets in the winter!). I actually don't blame the moms for not installing right because simply don't know and the information although if they clearly read the instructions would probably say it's a lot more than that. I had someone teach me how to wedge myself up over the carseat and push down and in while tightening. I get into friends cars and stuff and like 90% of them either don't use a base at all and just toss a seatbelt over the infant seat to hold it, or they do have a base or the larger carseat but they don't have it tight enough or parallel to the ground. I've seen ones that can be jerked 1 foot either way instead of an inch.
I tell yah, car seat industries make big bucks and in some cases I don't even think they deserve it but for all the laws etc... you'd think hospitals would teach you to put them in or something. Our hospital makes sure that you have a car seat before you take the baby home but they don't make sure it's installed correctly and if you ask for there help their response is they cannot touch it. From what I've heard in my area anyway fire stations are not allowed to help you install anymore either!
I think seat companies should be more responsible for the ease of use. They need to create better designs that are easy for people to learn. Some people are smart enough (like myself) but most OBVIOUSLY are not so they really need to take those people into consideration.
Last edited by jet; 06-18-2013 at 07:34 PM.