Maryland Kids in Safety Seats, the Queen Anne’s County Department of Health and the Traffic Safety Office are urging parents and caregivers to keep children rear-facing in car seats until at least age two, to reduce the possibility of serious injury in a crash.
Children under age two are 75% less likely to be killed or suffer severe injuries in a crash if they are riding rear facing rather than forward facing, according to research published in Pediatrics. In fact, for children 1–2 years of age, facing the rear is five times safer than facing the front of the car.
“While infant-only seat weight limits are clearly listed, it can be confusing to understand the weight limits of convertible style car seats when using the seat in a rear-facing position,” said Vickie Quimby, Safety Seat Technician. “It’s important to read seat labels and instructions carefully. Each seat has a ‘must-be’ used rear-facing weight limit, and an extended rear-facing weight limit designed to allow a toddler to continue riding rear-facing. In other words, it is mandatory for your seat to be used rear-facing for children 20-22 pounds and under. But for safest practice, you should continue using it rear-facing until your child weighs 30-45 pounds (depending upon the brand/model of seat)—which is much safer.”
The rear-facing position is safer because young children have heavy heads and fragile necks and skeletal system. In a crash, the rotation of the child’s heavy head can cause the soft spinal column to stretch, leading to spinal cord damage if he is riding facing forward. In addition, the head rotation can damage a child’s fragile brain. This is true even for children who have strong neck muscles and good head control. The rear-facing position minimizes head rotation, better protecting the brain and spinal cord.
Even when they understand the benefits of extended rear-facing, many parents worry about safety and the child’s comfort when they see their children’s feet touching the back of the vehicle seat, or when their legs rest in a folded-up position. “Parents can rest assured that there is no evidence of serious injuries to children’s legs or hips when they sit rear-facing,” says Mrs. Quimby. “Your child’s flexible muscles and joints allow him to ride safely and very comfortably when rear-facing, even as a toddler.”
As part of Child Passenger Safety Week (September 19-25, 2010) Queen Anne’s County will have certified technicians available to provide free hands-on child safety seat inspections and advice about extended rear-facing seat usage by appointment only. For additional information, please contact Maryland Kids In Safety Seats at 800-370-SEAT or visit www.mdkiss.org or call Vickie Quimby, Queen Anne’s County Health Department 443-262-4415.