I became a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) 4 years ago to when I started my baby planning business. I knew quite a bit about car seats after searching for the “right” ones for my twins, but there was so much more to learn. Since become a CPST, I am a huge advocate for car seat safety and love sharing my knowledge. One thing I knew for sure before I became a CPST was that I wanted my twins to be rear facing past 1 year. So, when my kids turned one, the law allowed me to forward face their car seats, but after some reading I decided not to.
Now, many car seat manufactures and state laws are changing or at least encourage parents to keep their children rear facing past longer at until age 2. Why the change from to extend rear facing? Well, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration have announced recommendations that young children should remain rear-facing until at least age 2, longer if they are within the height and weight limits of their car seat. The reason for their recommendation is that young children are particularly high-risk group for neck injuries when forward-facing in a car seat. Injuries to the legs are rare for children facing the rear. Rear facing keeps your children safer if ever they are in a car crash.
About 14 states have changed their laws to have your child rear facing longer, however just because it isn’t a law in your state does not mean you can’t do it too. In fact, Indiana State Police encourage parents to keep their children rear-facing as long as possible and sometimes explain why depending on the trooper. Here are some guidelines when it comes to safety and installation of infants and toddlers car seats:
- Keep your baby rear-facing until at least 2 years old or preferably until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer (some rear facing only car seat can go up t0 40 and convertible car seats up to 50 for rear-facing)
- Place the harnesses in your rear-facing seat in slots that are at or below your baby’s shoulders.
- Ensure that the harness is snug and that the harness clip is placed at the center of the chest and at the level of the child’s armpits.
- Make sure the car seat is installed tightly in the vehicle. If you can move the seat at the belt path more than an inch side to side or front to back, it’s not tight enough.
- Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an active front passenger air bag. If the air bag inflates, it will hit the back of the car seat, right where your baby’s head is, and could cause serious injury or death.
- If you are using a convertible or 3-in-1 seat in the rear-facing position, make sure the seat belt or lower anchor and tether is routed through the correct belt path. Check the instructions that came with the car seat to be sure.
- Make sure the seat is at the correct angle so your infant’s head does not flop forward. Check the instruction manual to find out the correct angle for your seat and how to adjust the seat angle if needed. All rear facing seats have built-in angle indicators or adjusters.
- Check the car seat instructions AND the vehicle owner’s manual about whether the car seat may contact the back of the vehicle seat.
The NHTSA has put together the car safety seat Ease of Use Ratings to educate parents and caregivers about car safety seat features and to assist them in finding the appropriate seat for their needs. You can view this list at www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/Ease-of-Use.