There are a lot of milestones that parents look forward to—first steps, first words, first day of school. But one of the things I’ve found many anticipate is the day they can turn their kid around in their car seat. I know I was!
Children one-year-old and under should always be placed in a rear-facing car seat.
In some states, including California, it’s required that they have to be at least two years old before they can be turned around. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that children stay in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible.
I was recently talking to someone who kept her kid in a rear-facing seat until she was four-years-old. Granted, her daughter was a bit on the smaller side, but still, this is amazing to me. Big kudos and props to her.
Parents Get Excited to Turn Their Kids Child Seat Around
There are a lot of reasons why parents want to turn their kids around sooner rather than later. For one, the kids are really fussy during car rides and you want to be able to see them easier.
Another is that it’s easier to reach back and hand them something if they’re facing forward. Still others talk about kids getting more car sick because they’re riding backward.
Here are the reasons why keeping kids rear-facing for as long as possible is the safer option:
First, rear-facing is the safest position for a child in the event of a car crash. Research studies state, “[Children] in [the] second year of life are 5 times less likely to die or be seriously injured in a crash if restrained rear-facing.” This alone should encourage you to choose rear-facing for as long as possible despite the convenience front-facing seats may provide.
2. Head Protection
A rear-facing seat is specifically designed to protect a child’s head. Young kids have a disproportionately larger and heavier head compared to the rest of their bodies. In a crash with a front-facing seat, the head moves abruptly forward, increasing the force on the neck. (Think of how bad whiplash can be for adults and then multiply that several times for children.) But with a rear-facing seat, the head moves with the seat, reducing the chances for neck and spinal injuries.
3. Bodily Protection
The protection for the head is probably the most obvious, but the rear-facing car seat also is designed to protect the whole body. Rear-facing only seats are engineered to absorb and distribute the impact of a crash throughout the shell of the seat. Essentially, the seat acts like a protective cradle or cocoon for the child. Since it’s not practical to keep them in a protective bubble all the time, this is the next best thing.
The Decision Is Up to You. Now You Know the Facts.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, everyone’s situation is different and it’s up to the individual parent to make the call as to when to place their child in a forward-facing seat. My goal here has been to share some of the things I’ve learned recently so that parents can make a more informed choice.
Be Prepared Wherever You Are!
At the park or playing ball – be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind. Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.
My son: Mom, when I turn 8 years old, I don’t need to use my booster anymore right?
Me: umm…yes and no?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), kids need to stay in a booster seat until they are able to wear a seat belt properly.
This means when the seatbelt is strapped on, the lap belt needs to lie across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt across the shoulder and chest.
So it doesn’t matter if the kid is 8 years old. The most important criteria is that the seatbelt is in the proper position.
In response to my son…
“Yes, mommy knows some kids don’t need to be in a booster seat once they turn 8 years old, but because your seat belt is too close to your neck, you need to stay in your booster for just a little while longer.”
I was expecting some resistance but he took it pretty well.
The next day, he wanted to try sitting again without the booster to see if he grew any. LOL!
(Notice with the image on the left, the shoulder belt is not where it should be, confirming that my hunch was correct. He needs to stay in his booster!)
It’s definitely a common question that even parents ask themselves though when their child reaches a certain car seat milestone.
“What age can my child legally go from rear facing to forward facing?”
“What is the age and weight limit on when kids can move out of carseats or boosters?”
“When can they sit in the front seat?”
It’s understandable to forget the exact weight and height requirements for each milestone. I have to remind myself all the time.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends children stay rear facing at least until they reach the max height or weight limit of the manufacturers car seat guidelines.
In some states, like California, it’s required that kids stay rear facing until at least 2 years old UNLESS the child weighs more than 40 lbs or is more than 40 inches tall.
For the average kid, that’s pretty much 4-5 years old already so expect your child to be rear facing until they are 2 years old.
So here are the nuts and bolts of it:
- For optimal safety, plan to have your child stay rear facing until they are at least 2 years old. In some states, this is required.
- Which means if you’re shopping for a new car seat, look for ones that have a higher max height/weight limit. There are car seats that go up to 30lbs and up to 32”.
- Kids should stay in their forward facing car seat until they have outgrown the max height or weight limit of their car seat.
- Then it is a booster seat until they can wear a seat belt properly on their own. This is typically anywhere from 8-12 years old. In California, they also need to be at least 4’9”.
- The NHTSA recommends that you keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12. There are no hard rules for kids sitting in the front seat, but the general consensus is that they are always safer sitting in the back.
The main thing to keep in mind for all these different milestones is that with each advancement, the level of safety and protection decreases.
As much as we look forward to not having to deal with car seats, especially traveling with them, it really is in their best interest to keep them in their appropriate car seats for as long as possible.
If you enjoyed any of the information in this article, make sure to follow us on social media and share it with another mommy friend!