The New York times published an article on Tuesday, Keeping Facing Backward for Child Safety, detailing the new American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement that children should remain rear-facing in car seats until the age of two. The decision was based on a 2007 study conducted at the University of Virginia that found children under two who are rear-facing are 75% less likely to experience severe or fatal injuries than their front-facing counterparts. SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT. There are very few instances in life where you get better odds than that.
The physics of it make sense. If a car traveling at 60 miles per hour comes to a sudden and complete stop, all people (and objects, I have been reminded by car seat safety specialists) continue to travel in the car at 60 miles per hour. This means that if your child is front facing, he shoots forward, his body is restrained by the car seat (provided it is properly installed, has not been in previous accidents, the upper latch is even with the child’s armpits and the belt is tight enough so that there is only enough room for two fingers between the belt and the child’s body), but his head continues to move forward, then bends (because it is connected to his restrained body) and snaps back. Young necks cannot necessarily sustain this degree of whiplash and thus are prone to breaking.
In contrast, a child who is rear facing continues to move backwards at 60 miles an hour, meaning that his whole body, including his head, is pinned to the car seat not only by the belt itself, but by the force of his body continuing to move, pressing in the seat. Consequently, no broken neck.
So, I was quite taken aback when I read the following quote in the Times article, taken from Debbi Baer, safety advocate and labor nurse:
“A lot of parents consider turning the car seat around as another developmental milestone that shows how brilliant and advanced their child is,” she said, “and they don’t realize that it’s making their child less safe.”
I don’t know if its parental pride that fuels the reluctance to follow these guidelines, or if this one person’s interpretation of why there is parental backlash in response to the AAP’s new policy. But, I am well aware of the fact that many parents want and do turn their children forward facing as soon as they are one or meet the previous weight/height requirements.
American parents tend to transition their children on the early side from crib to bed, highchair to booster, and rear-facing to forward facing. My guess is it has more to do with wanting our children to be more independent, capable creatures (or out of necessity because the next one is on the way and the parents really need that crib, highchair or infant car seat) than it does with bragging rights.Continued on the next page