With my son’s 2nd birthday approaching, my husband and I had to answer a really hard question. Should we turn his car seat forward-facing? He is not small; he’s always been in the 95th percentile for height and weight, and the car seat law says that two is the age when it’s okay to make the switch. After much research, we finally came to our own decision – NO! Here’s why:
Although the law states that children two years and older are allowed to face forward in their car seats, it’s just not as safe as riding rear-facing. Did you know the number one cause of toddler injuries in the United States is from car accidents?! I didn’t know that until I started doing my research, and this is the number one reason for our decision to continue “extended” rear-facing. In other countries where keeping a child rear facing until the age of three or four years old is part of the cultural norm, toddler/ vehicle-related injuries are less than 1%.
Children’s hips and spines are just not as strong as those of adults. Scientifically, this is the reason why it is ideal to keep them rear facing for as long as possible. The position that they sit in rear-facing will allow the car seat to take most of the impact in the event of a collision, while in a forward facing position, the toddler’s will take the brunt of the impact.
He knows no other way.
My son doesn’t even know about forward-facing (for the most part), and because of this, he can easily rear-face until he’s older. He has already learned to stretch his legs up on the seat and to fold them criss-cross applesauce style. Last weekend, we went on a 6-hour car drive with him seated this way. He had one stop where we let him out to stretch, but he was otherwise in his car seat. He was totally fine! Sure, he needed a little company in the back for entertainment but comfort-wise, no problem.
Peer pressure to turn him forward-facing was the only reason we were initially considering it, but once we did our own research, we knew what the right decision was for our family. So, my son will stay rear facing until he maxes out on either height or weight for his car seat. Luckily, we use a Britax Marathon convertible car seat, which is one of the few car seats that you can get in the United States that accommodates “Extended Rear Facing.” Rest assured, he got an abundance of other gifts from loving family members and friends, but we were happy to give him this gift of car safety.
If you are still on the fence and wonder how much safer it is for children to sit rear facing, type “rear facing vs. forward facing crash test” into YouTube. This is what changed my husband’s mind in an instant! And of course, keep in mind that whatever you choose, a properly installed car seat is ultimately the best way to keep your child safe in a vehicle.