Families are strengthened when children are protected, and there are many different ways that children need to be protected. The latest policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics (published on Monday in the Pediatrics medical journal) is that parents should keep their children in rear-facing car seats until they are at least two years old - and preferably longer. This is, of course, exactly opposite to what we have been previously told - that it was safe for a child to ride facing forward when they reached a certain weight or soon after their first birthday.
According to an article written by Patricia Callahan in the Chicago Tribune, "The new policy … is buoyed by research that shows children younger than 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are in a rear-facing child restraint.
"Equally important, the academy now recommends that children remain in a seat with a five-point safety harness as long as possible and should only transition to a booster seat that relies on the car's adult seat belts when children exceed the height and weight limit for the five-point harness."
Any intelligent person realizes that five-point harnesses provide more support than regular seat belts because they distribute the crash forces evenly over the strong, bony parts of a child's body. The harnesses go across the upper chest from shoulder to shoulder and across the hip area anchored by a strap that goes between the legs.
"The pediatricians also recommend that children remain in booster seats until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall - a height most kids don't reach until they are between 8 and 12 years old." In addition, the pediatricians recommend that children ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
Since each new transition causes the child to be less safe, this new policy shows that the pediatricians think that children should stay in the safer position for as long as possible. This sounds like a very conservative idea to me, and one that I can support.
Dr. Dennis Durbin, a pediatric emergency room physician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Pediatrics report's main author, "recommends that parents who have turned a child to face forward on her first birthday now reinstall that seat to the rear of the car….
"When researchers at Durbin's hospital looked at children between the ages of 1 and 4 hurt in wrecks, leg injuries were rare for those in rear-facing seats, while they are the second most common injury for those in forward-facing seats…. That's because the legs of a child in a forward-facing seat are thrown forward in most crashes and can hit the console or the back of the … front seat.
"In a rear-facing mode, the seats act like cocoons, cradling children's heads, torsos, arms and legs in an accident, and spread the crash forces over a larger area."
I encourage all parents of young children to follow the new safety seat policy and keep their children as safe as possible. These sweet little children deserve nothing less than our best efforts.