New pediatrician guidelines: Kids should face the rear for as long as they’re within car seat’s weight limit

Previous recommendations were based on age. Many parents place children in forward-facing seats too early because it seems more comfortable

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a new recommendation that young children need to face the rear of the car for as long as they’re under the seat’s weight limit. Some rear-facing seats can accommodate a child up to 40 pounds. Previous recommendations were based on age.

Why does it matter? It’s about prevention of head and neck injuries in the event of an accident.

“When a car is involved in a crash, the child’s head moves abruptly forward, placing increased forces on the neck,” said Sharon Rengers, R.N., Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness.

Free car seat checks

Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness is offering free car seat checks weekly around Louisville and in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

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“A rear-facing car seat is designed to distribute the forces of a crash, and support and cradle the entire head, neck and back of a child during a frontal crash. This reduces the chance of head and neck injuries.”

It may be harder to get some kids in a rear-facing seat, but it’s worth it

Many parents continue to place their children in forward-facing seats too early, citing ease and the fact that the child’s legs appear too long. To them, Rengers has a message:

“If a child suffers a head and neck injury, it can be a life-long injury — if not fatal. A little discomfort is a small price to pay to prevent that,” she said.

Parents also say they’re worried about leg injuries. Those are rare, and taller children can usually sit in a crossed leg position while rear-facing.

A child who is properly restrained in a properly installed car seat is five times more likely to survive a serious crash and have less serious injuries. Yet, mistakes continue to be made, putting children at risk.