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Car Seat Changes for Toddlers

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

New research is indicating that toddlers are more than five times safer riding in the rear facing position in their car seats than in the previously recommended forward facing position.

The American Academy of Pediatrics had recommended that infants and children up until the age of one year and 20 pounds ride rear facing and after that time the car seat could be turned around and face forward.

In this study children under the age of two were 75 percent less likely to die or experience a serious injury when they were riding in a rear-facing seat. The idea that toddlers whose feet could touch the back of the seat were at more risk of suffering lower extremity injuries was not substantiated and in actuality lower extremity injuries were rare.

The study did show that rear-facing seats were more likely to support the back, neck, head and pelvis because the force of a crash was distributed evenly over the entire body. In a forward facing seat the force of a crash is concentrated on seat belt contact points and a child’s head is disproportionately large for their small and weak necks leading to increased risk for cervical spine injures and possible paralysis.

Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death in children and this new information may improve safety in case of an accident. It is now important for parents to know that keeping children in rear-facing car seats as long as they do not exceed the size limits of the car seats looks to be the best recommendation. The AAP is going to have more information on this recommendation later this year, but for now I think your toddler will be happier and safer looking out the rear window for a little longer.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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