Car Seat Safety

Rear-Facing Car Seats, Why Do We Do This?

May 26, 2011


The first time I held my first child in my arms I couldn’t believe it!  So tiny!  Those little hands and feet!  As a first time parent I was almost scared I would hurt our baby just by holding him and was ever so careful to support his body and neck. 

When a baby is born we are all aware that they have very little muscle control, they can’t support their head, and in fact their head is approximately 25% of their body!  Their bones are soft and pliable making them prone to injury.  This is why we take so much care in holding an infant! 

We rear face a child in their car seat for very similar reasons.  Rear-facing allows for: 

  1. Distribution of the force of an accident to be spread across the back of the car seat so that it is equally distributed across the child’s back, neck and head.  When a child is forward facing, the force is only on the points of contact with the car seat harness.  Rear-facing children have a much lower chance of core body or spinal cord injuries.
  2. Proper rear-facing installations have the child seat at a 45 degree angle.  This is important because it keeps the child’s head laying back so that it does not slump forward.  This keeps their air way clear and allows them to breathe easily. 
  3. The highest percentage of accidents are frontal collisions.  In a collision everything moves towards the point on impact, so by having a child rear-facing it keeps the child in a better position and contained in the seat.
  4. A rear-facing seat is designed to “ride out a collision”.  This basically means that the back of the seat is not fixed to the vehicle; it is only connected to the vehicle at one point at the front of the seat.  In a collision this allows the back of the seat to move up and down, like a pendulum, absorbing energy and “riding out the collision”.

I’m glad to say we are seeing a new trend in Canada towards Extended Rear Facing.  This involves keeping a child rear-facing longer between 2-5 years, much longer than the minimum Canadian standard.  This has been a normal practice in countries like Sweden where children are kept rear-facing up to 5 years of age and 55 lbs! 

We recently saw the American Academy of Pediatrics in the US release a formal statement advising parents to keep their toddlers rear-facing until 2 years of age or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their car seat! Click here for the AAP Statement. 

Transport Canada recently changed their website to reflect a preference towards extended rear-facing.  They now recommend keeping your child rear-facing as long as possible, which means until your child outgrows the car seats weight/height limit.  For more info click here

Chart from Transport Canada Website

When parents first hear of Extended Rear-Facing it raises a lot of questions, watch for a future blog on the extended rear-facing with a lot more details!  For now, keep your kids rear-facing as long as possible! 

Till next time … Snuggle Dad

Snuggle Dad

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