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Will movement to keep car seats rear-facing longer catch on?

It is always upsetting to learn that someone has died in a motor vehicle accident. This is particularly true when it is a young child who is killed. To help keep the very young safe in case a car accident should occur, states throughout the nation, including Wisconsin, require that car seats be used until children reach a certain weight and height.

One of those laws currently requires that children under the age of one are secured in a seat that is positioned so that it is rear-facing. If some organizations get their way, the age at which a child’s seat can be changed to forward facing will be raised.

This change would be supported by at least two organizations. Over the course of the past 10 years both the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and American Academy of Pediatrics has made recommendations that the seats remain rear-facing until a child is at least 2 years old. If the child is small for his or her age, it could be even longer before the seat could be turned.

There are two reasons that these organizations support raising the age. The first is that children who are not yet between the age of four and six have spines that are primarily made of cartilage. Since cartilage cannot withstand the forces of crashes as well as bone, their spinal cords could tear or be stretched. Second, those same injuries could result in a child facing forward as a result of a child’s inability to control the movement of his or her head. This difficulty is due to their proportionately very small necks and large heads at those ages.

One car seat maker has embraced those recommendations in the designs of its new car seats. Whether others will follow, or laws will be made requiring the change, remains to be seen. Most would likely agree that any steps that could be taken to reduce the severity of injury or death of a child in a motor vehicle accident, is a good idea.

Source: Babble, “Car Seat Company Ups Forward-Facing Age Requirement – Here’s Why It’s a Big Deal,” Katie Loeb, Sept. 8, 2014

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