Expert Commentary

Best car safety seat positioning for children

2007 study in Injury Prevention on car seat positioning and safety outcomes for children.

Prior to March 2011, parents in the United States were advised to keep their child’s car seat rear-facing at least until the child weighed 20 pounds and turned 1 year old, at which point the car seat might safely be turned around to face forward during travel. That prevailing guideline changed when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new recommendation that the position of car seats should be kept rear-facing until the child is 2 years old.

A 2007 study published in the journal Injury Prevention, “Car Safety Seats for Children: Rear Facing for Best Protection,” examined  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data from 1988 to 2003 and, after controlling for variables, focused on 870 crashes involving children ages 2 and under.

The study’s findings include:

  • For all ages studied, rear-facing car seats proved 15% more effective in preventing moderate to severe injuries than did forward-facing seats. Rear-facing seats were effective in 93% of cases compared to 78% for forward-facing seats.
  • For children 12 to 23 months old, rear-facing prevented moderate to severe injury in 86% of cases, while forward-facing seats were effective in 69% of cases.
  • One unexpected finding was that rear-facing seats had significant benefits over forward-facing seats even in side impact crashes. This is likely because many side impacts are not purely lateral and have forward components.

The study’s authors recommend that infants should be kept in rear-facing seats until age 2 in order to “take maximum advantage of car seat protection.” They also note that many models of rear-facing car seats are not made to accommodate heavier toddlers, so manufacturers may need to adjust their seat designs to support children through their second birthday.

Tags: cars, children, consumer affairs, parenting, safety, parenting

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