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When is it safe to turn the child seat to face forward?

Posted on Mar 12, 2010
When is the right time to turn your child's car seat from facing backward to facing forward?  New guidelines dispel old rules in favor of greater safety.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is revising recommendations on how long a child should spend riding in a rear-facing car seat.

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.

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