Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Extended Rear Facing - Life and Death

My three year old and my fourteen month old safely rear facing

My oldest son, Wesley, is three years old and weighs 35lbs.  He is still rear facing along with his little brother, William, who is 14 months old and weighs 18lbs.  Both of my children will continue rear facing until they reach the height/weight limits on the car seats.  Believe me, I've had friends think I'm crazy and family members think I'm a "mean mom", but I am educated in my decision and this is what is right for our family.  Wesley doesn't mind rear facing one bit and has never complained about his legs hurting.  It's funny to see him criss-cross them, put them high up in the air, or just perch like a frog.  He's young, flexible, and perfectly content with his seating arrangement.  I joke to my husband that I want the kids in the best car seats I can find and continue rear facing because I don't trust my own driving, but even if I was a perfect driver I can't protect us from other vehicles on the road.  What I can do is keep my children as safe and secure as I can in my vehicle.

Kicking the seat in excitement after finding out that we were on our way to the ranch

In the most recent policy statement published in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children should remain rear facing until two years old or until they reach the height and weight limit on the rear facing car seat and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that you should keep your 1-3 year old child rear facing as long as possible and should remain in a rear facing car seat until they have reached the height and weight limit.  While the AAP just came out with this statement changing the minimum to 2 years old last year, they've always recommended keeping your child rear facing as long as possible and only listed 1 year old and 22lbs as a minimum.  Parents looked at the 1 year old and 22lbs as a milestone and were excited to turn their children around and didn't realize that it was a minimum, and turning their child around put them in danger.  How can I go so far as to say that it could be putting their children in danger?  A 2007 study in the journal, Injury Prevention found that children under age 2 are around 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. Crash studies done by the International Consumer Organization, ICRT and ADAC on 13,000 crashes, show that head and neck injuries and death are FIVE TIMES less likely when using a rear facing car seat. Studies of real life accidents done by Volvo and insurance companies show that children in rear facing seats are FIVE TIMES safer than those in forward facing seats.  Five times?  That's life or death.

AAP Recommendations -
NHTSA Recommendations -
Injury Prevention study abstract -

There are a few reasons why rear facing is so much safer for your child.  It seems that the main point is that when you are in a frontal crash, the child's body will be thrown forward like a rag doll if sitting in a forward facing car seat.  Because the bones that protect the child's spinal cord do not harden until they are between the age of 2-5 years old, this can mean internal decapitation.  Frontal and frontal offset crashes combine for about 72% of severe crashes and side impact crashes are about 24%.  Rear and rear offset crashes only account for about 4% and are more common at lower speeds.  The odds of being in a frontal crash with a fatality or very serious injury are many times greater than being in a severe rear-end crash. We know that frontal and frontal offset crashes are more frequent and more severe than rear-end crashes.  When rear facing in a frontal crash, the entire shell of the car seat cradles the child's back, neck and head. The crash forces are spread throughout the large area of the child's back and head, reducing the pressure during the crash, and keeping the head from snapping backward with respect to the body.  A child's legs and head are not restrained at all if they are turned front-facing.  In a serious frontal crash with a front-facing car seat, the head and legs of the child are thrown forward like a rag doll, and serious forces are put on the child's spinal cord. 

Video showing the "rag doll" effect in a forward facing seat and the "cushion" of the rear facing seat -
This gives a great visual of weight relation between head and body on children and adults -

My car seat of choice is the Diono Radian RXT (previously known as Sunshine Radian) which is usually priced at $339.99 but is currently on sale for $288.95 on Amazon.  The Diono Radian RXT rear faces until 45lbs, forward faces until 80lbs, and then converts to a booster seat until 120lbs.  This is the only car seat you will need all the way from birth until your child outgrows the carseat.  While the price may seem like a lot, you're not buying an infant seat, convertible car seat, and then a booster seat.  Also, who can put a price on safety?  With the steel alloy frame and aluminum reinforced sides, it's not a light piece of plastic that you could easily pick up with one finger.  This thing is solid and would protect your child in the event of a collision.  - Diono Radian RXT

Because nobody believes anything until it comes from a mainstream media source - CNN Article
This is a great resource for reliable information regarding extended rear facing -

He is three years old and has 10lbs left to go until he is forward facing!


  1. And for those who can't afford a $300 carseat, the next best thing is only $40. Cosco Scenera. We bought 2 when I was pregnant with Elliott and trashed Kahlan's old one because it was second hand & 2 years out of date! When it was given to me I had no idea carseats COULD expire.

    One caution I would give on buying this seat you praise so highly- Carseats expire 5 years after date of manufacture. So even if your child still fits within the height & weight limits, it might be unsafe. Bears looking into.

    As I said, I had very little knowledge of carseat safety with Kahlan- we happily turned her around a few weeks after her first birthday, even though she had just inched up to 19lbs. When I learned about ERF I brought it up to my husband, but he said it would be mean to turn her back around.

    With Elliott, I skipped the infant seat altogether and bought the 2 matching Sceneras. We've been very happy with them, and little man is still RF at 13.5 months. No plans to turn him any time soon. The Scenera max weight limit for RF is 35 lbs and he's at 25ish...

    The one downside is that the max FF weight is only 40 lbs, but for those of us on a limited budget it's a good seat. K will outgrow hers before it expires, and E might too since his growth curve is SOOO much higher than hers. Nonetheless, they will be able to go straight from the Scenera to a booster, and Cosco makes a booster that only runs about $55. Weight limit on the booster is 40 lbs for 5pt, and 80 lbs for belt positioning. From the comments it's more for short kids though, so we'll have to do more research when the time comes.

    1. Hello, Jessica! I am extremely happy to see that Cosco came out with a car seat to meet the new recommendations with a higher rear facing weight limit of 40lbs.

      The Diono Radian RXT has a 10 year expiration date, so it really should last all the way from birth to outgrowing the carseat. As for not being able to afford a $300 car seat, I totally understand! $300 is a lot of money to spend on a carseat, but if we look at how much most people spend on an infant seat, convertible car seat, and then a booster seat it all comes very close to balancing out. I hate to think about all the money we spent on the "perfect nursery" with a changing table and crib that was never used.

      I'm so happy to hear Elliott is still rear facing!

    2. Jennifer you make an EXCELLENT point!!! All this "wasted" money on the "perfect nursery" when half of the stuff you learn you really didn't need. A car seat is something that no one should skimp out on. I have a Diono Radion R100 and we got it on sale for $200! Still an awesome car seat that RF's to 40 lbs, has an RF tether, and will truly last the child for 10 years!