When is it safe to turn the child seat to face forward?Posted on Mar 12, 2010
When children are in a Washington car accident the forces they experience are more extreme when in a forward facing car seat. Impact forces can jerk a child's head away from their immature bodies causing injuries to the spine. While rear-facing seats are safer because the entire back of the body absorbs the impact force.
Children are safer if they remain in rear-facing car seats until the upper height and weight limits of their car seat. Many seats top out at 35 lbs. in the rear-facing position, which many children don't reach under they are 3-4 years old. Current AAP and NTHSA guidelines state its okay to turn the car seat to forward facing when kids are 1 year old and weigh at least 20 lbs.
A 2007 article in Injury Prevention showed that U.S. children are five times less likely to be injured in a car crash between their 1st and 2nd birthdays if in a rear-facing car seat. The study found that its rare to find spine injuries in accidents with kids in rear-facing seats. The vast majority of serious injuries where seen in crashes with kids in forward-facing car seats.
Don't view switching the seat around as a rite of passage, which is common for parents. Instead be slow to switch and only when necessary. Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing to booster all result in the loss of some safety, so only switch when necessary.