Rear-Facing Car Seats and Safety — Updated!

Hi Readers: There is so much to ponder in nthyhetbzt
this amazing column
from the Herald-Mail in Maryland titled, “When It Comes to Protecting Kids, We Have It All Backward.” Yes, it was inspired by the new American Academy of Pediatrics’ recent dictum that children should be kept in rear-facing car seats until age 2. Personally, I don’t get how that even works. Do we cut off their legs? (This would also prevent them from running in the street. Win/win!)

But the columnist, Tim Rowland, takes the idea a step farther with these thoughts:

Today, being a child is like being a hostage; the first two years of your life are spent blindfolded and tied to a chair. Great. Along with being safer, it also prepares the tyke for future airline travel.

But we wonder why the real world seems too much of a challenge to the young people of today. Is it really that hard to figure? “What do you mean I have to get a job on my own? Aren’t you going to wrap me in straps and blankets and transport me to a hardened-plastic workplace?”

You know, on reflection, maybe a car seat isn’t safe enough, either. Maybe we should just leave them in the hospital until they’re ready to start first grade.

As you can tell, I have conflicting feelings about safety. You can’t have too much of it — except that you can. You can protect against every contingency — except that you can’t.

That last paragraph sums up my own feelings about safety pretty exactly. As you know, I LOVE safety and hate courting danger for danger’s sake. But there is such a thing as TOO safe. There’s the safety that protects kids in only the most extreme and unlikely circumstances, but manages to restrict their daily lives just about completely. And there’s the safety we are encouraged to pursue that is almost superstitious. And there is the notion out there that if we just pass enough laws and buy enough gadgets and curtail enough activities and hover close enough to our kids, nothing bad will EVER happen. Which conveniently neglects the truth about fate, AND encourages the blaming of parents when ANYTHING goes wrong.

Long story short: I liked this guy’s column.  — L

UPDATE: Okay! After looking at the slo-mo videos of rear-facing car crash dummies — yikes! — I believe I would abide by the new guidelines if my kids were younger. In fact, my mom employed some kind of prot0 carseat when I was two, and this saved me when we tumbled off the highway.  Seatbelts saved her and my cousin. So I have always advocated for car seats (see statement on the left of my page that has been there since the beginning of this blog!). The reason I liked the column I quote here is that it uses this new edict as a jumping off point for asking if there is ever a point at which “very, very safe” is safe enough. Perhaps there isn’t, at least not when ensuring the extra safety involves something as simple as a new car seat position.  But it’s a question I ask a lot. Should we require videocameras on all rear bumpers? Should we redesign the hotdog? Should we get rid of trampolines? Does it ever make sense not to embrace new safety notions?

I don’t have the answer to all these questions but I do love trying to figure out what makes sense,  and what doesn’t. So while kids are already very safe in car seats — something to remember! —  you have convinced me that the rear-facing seat protects kids without changing childhood.  Let’s figure out everything else! — L


289 Responses to Rear-Facing Car Seats and Safety — Updated!

  1. Marlene March 30, 2011 at 6:04 am #

    The whole car seat thing drives me crazy. I kept my son in the front seat (no air bags) and what he knows is that I will meet his needs. What are the effects of leaving a child to feel “alone” not even able to see anyone else and unable to get their needs met in a car seat?

    Their is a huge interest by the lobbyists in writing into law the requirements to have these seats. Who stands to profit? Who really loses?

    Here is an unbiased, scientific look at how booster seats are MORE DANGEROUS than seat belts.

  2. dmd March 30, 2011 at 6:04 am #

    Have to disagree with you on this topic. While I didn’t keep my son rear facing for 2 full years, I did it as long as possible. Car accidents are one area where we know safety is an issue – unlike pedophiles behind ever tree. This is an easy way to be safe. If you’re raising Shaq O’Neal, okay, maybe one year is enough. Car accidents are very common, but it’s the area that parents toss safety aside first.

  3. Bekah March 30, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    This is going to be an interesting post to follow, I think.

    I had a good deal of freedom growing up, and I am trying to share that with my children. My son is only 2 1/2, so we haven’t faced as many free range issues as other parents. But he picks his own clothes everyday, is able to play in our backyard without me hovering over him, and *wait for it*, he’s still rear facing in his carseat. He is a smaller kid, at 27 lbs, so technically he could still be in some infant seats based on weight.

    I plan to raise him with the free range mentality, but he’s much too small to ditch his car seat at this point. So as long has he has to be in a car seat, shouldn’t it be in the safest position? He’s never once complained about his legs being uncomfortable or wanting to face forward.

    I’m not trying to be a fear monger by facing him backwards. But he will be in a carseat for a long time and I do want him to be safe in that instance. I don’t think there is anything for him to learn by facing forward.

  4. Matt L. March 30, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    Over and over again we say that the leading cause of death among children is car accidents and yet, a simple adjustment changes the equation.

    I am not sure why this is a scandal. In other parts of the world this is a standard. There isn’t a law in place dictating what we do so I think it is good information to have.

  5. lakelineleah March 30, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    This really disappoints me, coming from this reality-based site. Car safety is one of the only things that is a legitimate danger to kids in this day and age, and leaving them rear-facing is so simple (they just sit cross-legged, instead of having short legs uncomfortably dangling from the end of the seat – as a short woman I can attest that it is far harder on my knees to have my feet dangling than my legs crossed).

    There is just no good reason to be up in arms about NOT switching a kid around. My first rear faced until 2.5 and is now forward facing in a 5 pt harness at 4.5. My 2 year old and 8 month old are rear facing. In the back of a Subaru Outback. Two of them were car screamers until about the age of 1, so I am sure if I had switched them then I would have been all “They just hated rear facing!” No, they hated being strapped in instead of being held. But they deal because we have to drive sometimes. My children are not understimulated because they rearface, they have side windows. My 2 year old loves the expressway and calls out truck colors as we pass them. Can a kid behind an adult headrest really see much out of the front anyway?

    I am baffled by the outcry about this – it is not legislation, it is just a recommendation for how to keep kids safer FOR REAL, not as security theater with GPS devices at the mall, in the most dangerous part of their day.

    There are so many things to vent about our frustration over the loss of childhood. Car safety is not one of them. A lot of kids aren’t here to say “I rode without a booster and I’m fine.”

  6. Erica March 30, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    I am almost afraid to put something down here but I’m going to venture out. My daughter is not yet 2. I put her front facing before she even turned one. She outgrew the weight requirement for the infant seat and rear facing quickly but she also HATED rear facing like crazy. I know, we’re the parents and they are the kids – we’re in charge – but for me, this was a decision to face her forward because it was better for both of us. She really likes looking out the window and she was uncomfortable being tilted backwards towards the ceiling with the back of the car’s seat right in her face. I know I’m way in the minority here but well, that’s that. I’m not turning her back rear facing.
    When we have another kid, they will be rear facing of course in the infant seat. I’ll see how they do rear facing but I’m not going to nuts about it once they grow into the larger car seat.

  7. Lisanne March 30, 2011 at 6:15 am #

    I’m going to have to disagree on this one too. My 2 year old is only 25 pounds and 33 inches. Her car seat says right there on it that it can’t be turned forward until 34 inches. She is so comfortable that she falls asleep almost every time we are in the car more than 20 minutes and her legs seem just fine. People are in car accidents all the time. It’s not a rare occurrence that it’s silly to be afraid of. A small child’s spine can’t handle the whiplash that an adults can so they are better off facing backwards as long as possible.

  8. Paige March 30, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    Can’t say I’m with you on this one. Like dmd said, thinking seriously about car safety isn’t the same as worrying that a pedophile is going to kidnap your kid if they’re out of your site for 30 seconds. And the leading cause of death for children is car accidents.

    This video makes it pretty clear why keeping kids rearfacing longer makes good sense. This is a simulation of a head-on crash, which has a higher potential for catastrophic injury as compared to a rear-end crash, given that the cars are traveling in opposite directions and thus the force when they meet is multiplied. (

    Also, this sentence: “Personally, I don’t get how that even works. Do we cut off their legs?” Kind of just came off as snotty and ignorant. I wish you’d looked it up (kids cross their legs against the back seat usually).

  9. KateNonymous March 30, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    Apparently Swedish children sit backward until age 4, and I haven’t heard that there is a rash of Swedish children unable to function in society. Much as I want to turn BabyNonymous around when she turns 1 in a few weeks, I’m going to wait. Until she’s 2? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll have to see.

    Lenore, could you elaborate on how this is a free-range issue? Many times you’ve offered up car accident rates as a rebuttal to concerns about children walking to school, yet when this is brought up as a way to reduce car accidents, you seem to dismiss it out of hand, with no solid reason for that dismissal. The result is that this post seems reactionary rather than logical–and using logic has always seemed to be a big part of your free-range advocacy!

  10. Jessica March 30, 2011 at 6:18 am #

    I’m with you on the confusion. Rear facing is safer, and so my son was rear facing as long as possible — which was about 13 months. He’s quite tall.

    As much as I know that rear facing is safer, it was a big relief when I could turn him around. It was easier on both of us – he could see me, and I could see him (in the mirror), and it took up a lot less room in the car.

    It seems like this is a recipe for absurdly large car seats, which means that moms have to drive even bigger cars, and I am not a huge fan of that.

  11. AnotherAnon March 30, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    Lenore, I disagree on this one, too. I’ve seen the videos with kid-sized crash test dummies of the impact that front-facing kids get from accidents vs. rear-racing. There’s a big difference, and as another commenter said, car accidents are a REAL risk, not an imagined one.

  12. Nanci March 30, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    Unfortunately it’s not just the staying rear facing till 2 with car seats. Some people are making their kids stay in boosters well into middle school and keeping elementary kids in 5 point harnesses. I can’t imagine still buckling my 9 and 7 year old in like that! Car seats are being made now to fit “kids” up to 100 pounds. I would have been in one till early in my college experience according to that weight guideline 🙂 I’m all for keeping kids safe in the car, but there is a balance. Making your 11 year old stay in a booster can do serious damage to a kids self-esteem at a very vulnerable time in their lives. I go to a Disney discussion forum often and this is a topic that comes up a lot. I have been shocked by the number of people discussing how their 9 year old is still in a 5 point harness or their 12 year old is small and still in a booster in 7th grade because “it’s the safest and I will not compromise their safety for anything”. It is crazy to me. Once I pointed out that when my mom was a baby (1952) she was put in a crate on the floorboard when her mom was not holding her in the passenger seat. They about chewed my head off, I try to stay away from those discussions now 🙂

  13. fenix March 30, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    wow. i am baffled that you see this as a problem. here in sweden, we are recommended to keep kids rear-facing until at least 4 yrs and if possible even longer. pls watch some dummy crash tests and compare between children facing forward and children facing rear of car and then tell me if it seems TOO SAFE?! i was really sad to have to turn my 3½-yr old only because he outgrew his kid car seat, because i know that is a lot more unsafe in the event of a car crash. in the us, you spend a whole lot more time in your cars than we do, and you still turn your kids when they are still babies.

    i really like your free-range philosophy and i am raising my kids that way, but you seriously lost my respect with this post. it is one thing wrapping your kid in bubble wrap until they turn 21, and another making sure you do your best to make them survive a possible car crash to see them live until 21.

  14. Matt L. March 30, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    Erica, that’s why it is great that there is no law. Not sure how we’ll tackle it but it is a DECISION we get to make so we should be informed on both the recommendations and the restrictions.

    We know our kids and we will do what is best for them!

  15. KateNonymous March 30, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    Oh, and anecdotally–yes, I remember my car seat. It was a booster seat that you wouldn’t find in a restaurant today, and it relied on the lap belt. I never had a problem with it (except that it was ugly and looked like a hamburger), but I also know that traffic is worse–and drivers seem to be, too–than it was when I was a child.

    In many ways, times haven’t changed as much as the media would have us think. But in other ways, they have. Should I put BabyNonymous in my old car seat just because I rode in it without incident? Or should I consider the possibility that safety standards might have changed for a reason?

  16. Robert March 30, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    As has been pointed out, car accidents are probably the most legitimate danger our kids face. The recommendation to have them rear-facing is based on physics, not worst-case thinking.

    By its very nature, riding in a car at 60 mph is unnatural. Man is not built to go that fast, nor is he built to survive a sudden stop from that speed… kids less so. Keeping kids rear facing till 2 is not impinging on their natural instincts to run and play, it is not keeping them from interacting meaningfully with their parents (if you’re having deep interactions with your kids while driving you should probably be paying more attention to driving the many tons of metal you’re in). It could be keeping them alive to do those things later.

    I fail to see the problem here.

  17. Anjie March 30, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    I don’t agree with you on this issue either. I also don’t see what the big commotion is. My daughter rear-faced until she turned 3 years old and she will remain in her 5pt for quite some time. (She turns 4 next week.)

    If your kid is spending so much time in their car seat that remaining rear-facing would “restrict their daily lives just about completely” I think you have bigger issues to look at.

  18. Matt L. March 30, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    Gotta say, when I take my car on the track I am in a 5 pt harness and a seat designed by Recaro, why wouldn’t you want that for a kid?

  19. Abby March 30, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    What concerns me isn’t whether young children face forwards or backwards. If it is safer to keep ’em looking at the seat for a few more months, fine, I’ll do it.

    What bothers me is this: booster seats seem to have eliminated carpooling, at least until third or fourth grade. How do you get enough booster seats in the right parent’s car? Instead, we’re all driving – one parent, one child, putting extra cars on the road.

    I’m not sure the equation ultimately comes out on the side of safety.

  20. liza March 30, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    Have to agree with everyone else who’s disagreeing with you on this one. I generally love what you have to say and am trying to raise my own kids as free range as possible. But kids who are rear-facing are 75% less likely to be severely injured or killed in a car accident (stats can be found in the recent NYTimes article as well as other places). SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT. And motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for children in this country. Looking at those numbers I don’t see how rear-facing your kids to the limits of their car seats can be compared to, say, taking a picture of your kids every morning in case they get abducted, or any of the other crazy overprotective practices you generally cover with such good sense.

  21. North of 49 March 30, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    A broken leg is easier to heal than a broken neck. Our first child got turned around early – he enjoyed looking around. The subsequent children stayed in their rear facing for longer, but were all turned by the time they were two. Forcing the issue is stupid and punitive.

    Here, kids are supposed to be in boosters till 9 or 145cm tall. I have a notch on my wall and my son is a hand’s span too short at 8.5. But three boosters/car seats in the back is unsafe, imo – one of the kids always needs help buckling when the car seat is in it but without the car seat, is able to buckle their seat.

    The law’s even stricter here than just the height/age. All children under 12 MUST have a shoulder and lap belt. No regard to the age of the vehicle either. I’m just waiting for the first stop by the police because the child in the middle is not in a booster and doesn’t have a shoulder belt. What would a judge say if the mother, who can not drive (at the moment – long story) and has to sit in an adult sized seat because she has mobility issues ends up required to sit in the middle seat of the back seat just to satisfy a stupid shoulder belt law for kids?

    Yah, an older car, but ffs, no law is just if it is absolute and childrens’ safety are absolutes.

  22. Jamie Wheeler March 30, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    Well said. My thoughts exactly when I heard this ridiculous new “rule.”

    I recall they changed the weight limit not that long ago and thinking that my 5’5″, 85 lb kid would’ve STILL been in one, at age 12!

    I also recall being on a *long* car trip, and getting my son (gasp!) out of his carseat to nurse him as we didn’t want to awaken my toddler daughter.

    Guess what? Both kids survived.

  23. Paige March 30, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    North of 49 – “A broken leg is easier to heal than a broken neck.”

    True! But in fact that’s what you’re more likely to get in a rear-facing accident than in a forward-facing accident. In a head-on collision, which is the kind that involves the most force and risk, the body is forced forward. If the child is in a rear-facing seat, the child’s back is forced evenly into the back of the car seat. If the child is forward-facing, the child’s body is forced forward, with only the restraints to catch him or her, and the spine and neck undergo enormous pressure. Here’s a video that demonstrates that:

  24. Kate March 30, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    I’m in the car seat camp too. While I can think of a few legitimate reason to turn a little one around early or ditch the booster seat, I think for most of us rear-facing for babies and boosters for small and young kids is the best choice.

    As a hospital employee in my town points out, it is easier to fix a broken leg than a broken brain, face or internal organ. And most of us won’t ever have a smack-down with a child predator, but we’re all in the car at some point or another. And while I know *I’m* a safe driver, it’s the other guy I don’t trust!

    Also, the “I never sat in a car seat and I’m fine” argument doesn’t work here, because the ones that didn’t work out so well for are not here to speak for themselves — they’re dead. In some ways the past was better — but some change is good.

  25. socalledauthor March 30, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    I can more-or-less accept the up to two years recommendation (though, goodness, I’m tired of the nasty attitude that goes with– such as the accusations of anyone who questions if it really needs to be the full two years, or notes the fact that many car seats don’t fit in smaller cars– people like me get accused of not loving our children because if we did, we’d never question this recommendation.) We discovered this weekend that our car seat doesn’t quite fit in our little car– no one can ride in the passenger seat if the car seat is in the back. We don’t have the money for a larger car and are considering turning the seat around because that would give us more room… but even thinking that means, according to many, that I don’t care about my child’s safety. That’s the part of about these things that hurts. I was told to my face that by considering turning the car seat around (my son meet’s the seats requirements for being forward facing in height and weight, just not age) I was an abusive mother.

    The recommendation that I find really problematic is the booster seats until adult-hood– I mean, 4’9″– guideline. Personally, I think that one is excessive. Is it just about the seat belt fitting properly, then surely there are other, cheaper choices that don’t require an after-market seat (hmm… who lobbied for this recommendation– and as stated above, the culture is that anyone defying a “Recommendation” is a horrible parent). Lastly, I have to ask– if these things are so necessary, why aren’t they built into the cars in the first place?

  26. Kate March 30, 2011 at 6:45 am #

    Really? Really? Have you looked at the statistics on this? Do you know what internal decapitation is? Car accidents are the leading cause of death for young children in the United States to the tune of over a thousand kids a year. Study after study has shown that kids between the age of 1 and 2 are about 75% less likely to be seriously injured or killed in a crash if they are rear facing instead of forward facing. In Sweden where children routinely rear face until 3-5 auto fatalities for children are almost non existent.

    As for their legs, they simply sit with their legs crossed once they get that long. I bought the car seat with the highest rise so that my off the charts for height son can stay rear facing as long as possible.

    You blew it on this one.

    ps: Btw, if you actually watch the TED talk referenced above you’ll see that what the guy is talking about being safer isn’t a regular seatbelt, it’s a carseat/booster seat that is integrated into the car which of course is safer because it fits perfectly and there are no installation errors.

  27. Ashley March 30, 2011 at 6:45 am #

    I’m glad to see someone else annoyed by this. I don’t have a problem with rear-facing, if it works for you, but it REALLY didn’t work for my child or my car. Saying a kid must be rear-facing well into toddlerdom (as many do) is pretty much requiring that all parents own SUVs or minivans. It’s economically and environmentally unsound. My carseat only fits rearfacing in the center position which means, according to some, in order ot have 2 kids I should be legally required to purchase a larger car. Or at least be publicly scolded.

    Additionally, my child screamed incessantly in the car starting about 7 or 8 months. I held off on turning her around for awhile longer, but I honestly believe it is morally wrong to let your child scream alone until they pass out (imagine how I feel about the Ferber method). So we turned her around before she was 1, and car rides immediately improved.

    I have her in a highly rated 5 point harness now, forward facing, and she’s quite safe. Yes, rearfacing is a bit safer, but forward facing in a good seat is still very safe. People behave as if you either have them rearfacing until they’re reading and potty trained or you’re letting them run around unrestrained and don’t care one bit about their safety. It’s so black and white and just stupid.

    Lastly, why is the onus to keep people safe on the consumer, and not the manufacturer. The AAP wants kids in some sort of aftermarket carseat until they’re adult sized (age 12) and even that’s not enough. My body size is the mean (5’3″, size 14) of the American adult woman, and often I don’t fit properly in cars. Does that mean i need a booster? No, it means that car designers should engineer seats in such a way to fit a wider range of bodies, instead of just the 5’10 male.

    But then Britax, Graco, etc. would lose a lot of money. Can’t have that, can we?

  28. Jen March 30, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    I noticed someone else mentioned that whole ‘leaving kids in booster seats until they’re 4’9’ rule. I was 4’9 in high school and I’m not much taller now. Do these “safety experts” really expect teens and adults to ride in booster seats??

  29. Rhiannon March 30, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    I agree with those who disagree. I vehemently disagree with you on this one. Sweden has practically eliminated car accident deaths in small children, and they also rearface until 5 regularly.

    The leg issue is a non issue. This thread from has pictures to show you how kids fit:

    A lot of kids find it more comfortable to sit rear facing, they are bendy. We’re projecting our issues when we think it looks uncomfortable. Rather, a lot of kids think it’s more uncomfy to sit forward facing with their legs dangling down not resting on anything. It also helps them keep toys within reach instead of lost to the floorboard.

    There has never been a documented case of a child having their legs broken by rearfacing. And if there was an accident bad enough to break their legs, then that is the better alternative.

    I strive to not overreact and fear monger about risks that are blown out of proportion, but car accident risks are not only real but also easily preventable for our children. Rearfacing doesn’t hurt anything, and it saves lives.

    So, while my kid will be playing in the backyard by herself, walking next door on her own, playing in one part of a store while I’m in another, and safely talking to strangers- she’ll also be rear facing until she outgrows the limits of her seat.

  30. Roberta March 30, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    I used to be a self proclaimed “Car Seat Nazi” and turned my kids around well after 1. But now that they are 4 and 6, I’m feeling less excited about the 5-point and booster guidelines.

    At some point, safety, convenience and reality diverge. EVERYONE would be safer in a 5 point harness ala NASCAR. But that’s not practical, so we don’t do it.

    At some point, we decide that the 5-point and the booster aren’t worth it and move on. I like that states have laws that cover the smallest kids, but after that, I like that it’s just a recommendation by the AAP and parents can use their own value system.

    Everyone has a different threshold for safety and risk taking. IMO this is an instance where being overprotective has few consequences, so why not? Yes, fewer carpools, which I hate. Can’t we have both though? My 6 YO uses a booster, but when a carpool situation comes up, I’m happy to let her go without for the convenience. Another case of practicality winning over safety, but that’s my threshold, and I’m OK with it.

    What I’m not OK with, is parents being bullied away from using their own common sense and decision making skills and using boosters for 10 YOs because everyone else is. Make a decision that’s right for you, and believe in it.

  31. Eden March 30, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    I’m in the disagree camp as well…riding in a car doesn’t have anything to do with child independence. I’m wondering why you chose this to post about?

    My kids were all able to buckle themselves in and out by the time they were 3 and yeah, they were all rearfacing at that point. They are all very much thinkers and I freerange them like crazy in most things. Freeranging in my mind is all about looking at actual information about actual danger. Kidnapped by a stranger= 1 in 37400 (or .00004 of children are abducted and ~40% of those children are killed acording to the missing and exploted children web page) but chance of a child being killed in a car accident is around 1 in 109 (or about 1.9% of children are killed in car wrecks). This also depends on your region, some are higher some are lower.

    Those are odds I try beat for my children…

  32. Melanie McGrath March 30, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    Again, we do things a little differently here in Australia. There are no rear facing child seats – well, I’ve never seen one and I’ve never seen a kid in one.

    We have babies in rearwards-facing capsules until the age of about 6 months (or until they don’t fit in it anymore). Then from 6 months to a year kids go into forward facing booster seats with built in five point harnesses.

    They stay in a version of those until around primary school where they may go into a more basic booster (without a five point harness). Safety authorities generally recommend that your child stay in some kind of booster until they’re around 8 or 9 – mainly so the seat beat sits in a safe position across their chest rather than their neck.

    I’d be interested to know the comparative safety statistics between Australia and the USA with regards to children in cars given that our approaches are obviously so different. Traffic safety is a huge focus of government authorities in Australia and I suspect that if rear-facing really was 75% safer than forward facing we’d all be doing it.

  33. Emily (NY) March 30, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    Gotta disagree on this one, too… There is just way too much evidence – not anecdotal worries – supporting the fact that kids are far safer when properly restrained in a car than when not. And, yes, on the completely non-Free Range end of the spectrum, they’re potentially “safer” by not climbing playground equipment, never crossing the street alone, etc… But, as we Free Rangers agree, in those cases, the skills and confidence gained far outweigh the “dangers.”

    With carseats and car restraints, however? The very real risks – as in, this is happening dozens of times a day, versus the “risk” of, say, a pedophile nabbing a kid off the street – include severe injury and death. So many kids’ bodies just aren’t big enough to bear the brunt of a car crash – the seat belts don’t fall in the right place, their backs aren’t tall enough, their muscles (in toddlers) aren’t strong enough to support their necks. On the other hand, there isn’t so much confidence or a rash of life skills gained by sitting in a grown-up seat with a grown-up buckle.

    Our kids (ages 4 and 6) make their own breakfasts, dress themselves, play outside alone, wait for me in the car while I pick up the pizza, etc… You know – they’re Free Range kids. ;o) But they both were turned backward in the car until 18 months (they just fold up their legs!) and still remain in 5 point harness carseats – yes, even the 6 year-old Kindergartener. We simply explain that it’s safer, and she doesn’t fight us on it.

    So, for me, this isn’t a Free Range issue at all. I’ll fight tooth and nail for less helicopter parenting, more independence in kids, teaching them to be competent and confident, and showing them that the world ISN’T full of dangerous people. But it is absolutely irrefutable that, unless kids are big enough for “regular” seats and buckles to work properly, they’re not only *safer* in carseats and booster seats… they’re in pretty serious danger if they’re *not* restrained.

    So… can’t agree with you on this one. But you can bet my kids will be buckling their own carseat buckles (without mom’s help!), will be responsible for their own belongings while in the car, and that when they get out of the car, they’ll be running around outside… by themselves. And with helmets, if they ride their bikes. 😉

  34. Jen March 30, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    Overall, I think car seats are a good thing, but many of us grew up in a time when car seats didn’t exist and we’re fine.

  35. Rhiannon March 30, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    And to those talking about the size of the seat vs car… I drive a Kia Spectra and have the carseat at an infant recline behind the passenger seat. If I tilted it so it is more straight up and down (which you can safely do after a baby has good head control and doesn’t slump forward when sleeping), it would fit behind my driver’s seat (granted I’m not a tall man or anything).

    I get that some babies get carsick when rear facing, or scream until you’re not able to concentrate. At that point it’s up to you, the parent, to decide the risks vs benefits. But to not keep your kid rear facing out of a sense of injustice at being told what to do annoys the heck out of me.

  36. Liz Lynch March 30, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    Sorry Lenore, as I’ve said before, I’m on the other side of this one. First of all, there’s plenty to look at out the back of a car, actually it’s pretty much the same stuff you see out of the front of a car. I remember being THRILLED to sit backwards in my aunt’s station wagon with the rear-facing third row.

    True, you can’t interact with your baby while you’re driving if they’re rear-facing, but you know what? That’s safer! The car isn’t actually a good place to keep up chit chat with the wee ones and make eye contact.

    I agree with his premise that it’s a shame that kids are strapped into car seats for “hours upon hours” but I think that’s a problem with being IN CARS for hours upon hours, not with the safety that car seats provide.

    I’m disappointed to see you siding with this knee-jerk essay, which seems like the typical kind of “things were better back in my day” nonsense that every generation must endure. Car seats significantly reduce fatality and serious injury in children in car accidents, which unlike kidnappings are relatively common occurrences. Rear-facing car seats are the safest choice to protect against a legitimate, real danger. Let’s stick to banishing the imaginary (or profoundly unlikely) dangers from our lives, and use good sense and good, scientifically-tested and well-reasoned advice to protect our children from the real stuff.

  37. Beth March 30, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    Considering your child will be strapped in in any case, why does being rearward facing be a free range issue? They are in the safer position, can still see out the window, but also learn that they have to deal with not being able to see a parent. These are all good things.

    If you want to argue car vs walking, I would agree with you, but I don’t see the benefits of turning a child before they are ready, which compromises safety for no additional benefits.

  38. Cynthia March 30, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    I’m disappointed to see this post as well. When you consistently cite deaths due to vehicular accidents versus deaths due to, for example, stranger abduction, it seems that you would be one of the first to recognize this as actual progress rather than more fear-based foolishness.

    The actual fear-mongering here is in this guy’s article:

    “But we wonder why the real world seems too much of a challenge to the young people of today. Is it really that hard to figure? “What do you mean I have to get a job on my own? Aren’t you going to wrap me in straps and blankets and transport me to a hardened-plastic workplace?””

    What a sad argument for turning a child forward-facing earlier than necessary.

  39. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    SERIOUSLY??? Lenore, you have it WRONG this time. REALLY, REALLY WRONG!!! You go on and on about how parents make up these crazy, unrealistic, stupid, never-going-to-happen dangers that they have to protect their kids from, but when you are offered a realistic, easy-to-do solution for the NUMBER ONE KILLER OF KIDS, you say it’s overboard???

    UNBE-freaking-LIEVABLE! You need to do your research. You REALLY, REALLY need to do your research. Then repeat after me: Playing outside – safe; being in a car – number one cause of death, and one of the top causes of SERIOUS INJURY!!! EVERY SINGLE STEP of car seat safety is a step down in protection. Why would you, with the wide-reaching voice that you have, try to convince parents to make their children less safe when there ACTUALLY IS A RISK???

    Is a child likely to be in a crash? YES (statistically)
    Is a child likely to be injured or killed in a crash? YES (again, statistically)
    Do rear-facing car seats for kids through at least 2 years, harnessed seats for kids up through 7-8 years and boosters for kids up through 10-12 years significantly lessen that risk? YES!!!

    Put your brain back in, Lenore, and stop going on auto-pilot every time a news media prints something with the words child and safety in the same sentence.

  40. Ashley March 30, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    Rhiannon, I have a Honda Fit. My Britax Marathon does not fit rearfacing in it. Well, it does, if there’s no passenger.

  41. Kris March 30, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    Nonsense = live saving measures. Children’s heads are around 25% their total body height. That is a lot of pressure on a still developing skulls, necks and spines. We choose to put them in “faster than a speeding bullet” contraptions and balk at a few extra measures to keep them safe? Have these writers seen the crash test videos comparing FF to RF? I have, it’s shocking. My 18mo is RF and couldn’t be happier sitting indian-style – and he will continue to do so indefinitely.

  42. Holly March 30, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    Well, I’ll also jump in here and say that I AGREE with this article & Lenore’s take on it. Our kids get turned around at the age of one. Yeah, yeah. I’ve seen the statistics & videos of rear facing vs forward facing and all that. Sorry, but we still turn them around. I am honestly not convinced that the safety benefits outweigh all the negatives of having them rear facing by that age. Particularly if your children are on the upper end of the growth curve.

    I’m sure most people here would say that we’re irresponsible for doing so, but honestly, we spend A LOT of time in the car. Our kids are crazy tall & outgrow their baby buckets around 3 months. Their legs dangle A LOT over their 5-point-harness seats easily by age 1. I can’t imagine making multiple long car trips with my toddler rear facing. They can’t see anything. You can’t see them. By the time we’ve turned both our girls they were actively complaining about how uncomfortable their legs/hips were being rear facing.

    That said, I think it’s totally cool if other folks want to turn their seats at 2, or 3, or heck, even 4. A good friend of mine still has her 3 year old rear facing. Whatever works for your family is great. My concern is that with this new recommendation there will undoubtedly be a whole rash of new laws *requiring* kids to stay rear facing until 2 or 3 or whatever.

    Eventually there has to come a time when we’re going to have to accept exactly what the article she cites says about safety: You can’t have too much of it — except that you can. You can protect against every contingency — except that you can’t.

  43. fenix March 30, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    those of you talking abour car size, you really believe all families in sweden drive suv:s or only have one child? granted, we drive a mpv ourselves, but only because i have a disability and not because of the car seats. most people drive common station wagons in the smaller range (mostly volvo v70, ford escort and such), and two kids is the usual amount. and still we face our kids rear until age of 4-5, PLUS using booster seats until 12 yrs of age.

    using arguments like “we didn’t ave any car seats in the 50’s or 70’s and we’re fine” is just stupid on so many levels it’s not even worth answering.

  44. Donna March 30, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    Interesting. I was spoken sternly to by a policeman at a voluntary car set safety check over 12 years ago because my 10 month old was too big for the rear facing car seat (too long). Right then, they got me a free forward facing seat being given as raffle prizes, installed it and plopped my confused daughter into it before I was allowed to leave the lot.

    10 months old. Mom is only 5′ 5″. Car seats and babies – your mileage may vary.

  45. Roberta March 30, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    My biggest gripe about rear facing seats is that they are nearly impossible to install correctly. 70% are installed wrong ( Getting the right angle, no interference from front seats or other rear passengers, and tight enough straps is incredibly difficult.

    I think is more interesting that the APP didn’t recommend having parents have seats professionally installed or inspected.

    If RF parents are making you feel bad, see if they’ve had their’s inspected. Chances are they haven’t, and aren’t as great of parents as they’d like you to think.

  46. Leah March 30, 2011 at 7:09 am #

    This was a very disappointing post. I am generally in full agreement with you but not today. Cut off their legs? That’s ridiculous. Why do you think we have knees?? Our legs bend! Extended rear facing is not based on some mythical danger that we will probably never encounter. Many before me have made excellent points about extended rear facing in other countries and accident statistics.

    This seems to have been a poorly researched post. I hope to hear more about your thoughts on this.

  47. mamanomnom March 30, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    I have to jump on the bandwagon here and say that from a reality-based perspective, keeping kids rear-facing as long as their seat allows them to be is one of the best ways to keep them safe during the most dangerous part of each day.

    I have big kids and our car seats required that once they were tall enough to need the shoulder straps in the top slot of the seat, it had to be turned around, so my daughter was turned around at 15 months – but I wasn’t happy about how early we had to do it. My son is currently rear-facing at 9 months, and we have absolutely no plans to turn him around until it is necessitated by his size.

    My parents were both EMTs when I was growing up, so I learned the sad-but-true names that first responders on accidents use: for example, motorcycles are “donorcycles” because young men in perfect health die while riding them too fast (and often the families donate their organs).

    And rear-facing car seats? They call them “orphan seats”, because in serious, multiple-fatality crashes it’s pretty common to have only the baby – in a rear-facing car seat – survive.

    Normally I see you responding in a logical way to the facts, Lenore. I’m disappointed this time. As the saying goes, you can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts.

  48. This girl loves to talk March 30, 2011 at 7:24 am #

    yes either I have an old seat (it has been through a few kids, but was a very good brand when I bought it)
    but I dont think we have these rear ward facing till your four seats in australia (I’m probably wrong, its been a while since I’ve been to a baby shop 😉

    …. our rear ward facing seats kinda lay you down. My daughter was doing weird desperately trying to sit up noises in her seat, so we had to change her to front facing. (the seat has two settings rear and forward) Like she was constantly straining her stomach doing like little sit ups..

  49. Laura March 30, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Eh, I’ve got to disagree with you on this one I think.
    I agree with almost everything else you’ve posted on this blog, because it’s always backed up by science, research, and, y’know, truth. Like that people are generally overreacting to the danger of things – strangers are most likely _not_ dangerous, nor are playgrounds, etc. The statistics back you up on all that. It’s ridiculous to protect children from unlikely, rare causes of harm, especially when protecting them can cause harm in and of itself.

    But the stats go the other way on this one – cars and car crashes kill people, and especially kill small children. From the age of 1 to 24, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in the US, and for _all_ ages cars are the leading cause of accidental death. And having babies and toddlers rear-facing in their carseats is not going to cause any harm (is Rowland positing that we turn them around to protect them from _boredom_? I think that may be overreacting a bit, actually. )

    Now, the fact that there is a necessity for such large protective devices around children in order to lower the death rate from motor vehicles (but that the rate is still extremely high) might indicate that we shouldn’t be confining children or adults into motor vehicles at all. Surely we can all “look.. around and see.. what the score is” easier while walking. Or biking, or on a train or a bus. We might (gasp!) run across other people (strangers!) while we’re at it. I’ve never found motor vehicles especially useful for free-ranging.

    I did like that penultimate paragraph, though. Pity it couldn’t have been attached to a better issue.

  50. Liz March 30, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    I completely support Free Range, but do not agree with this post. Ask your parents and grandparents how common it used to be to know someone whose child died in a car crash. It happened all the time in the 1950s before seatbelts. Now it is usually the child that is the only survivor, because of the car seat! It is all about the impact of the spinal column, which is proven to be lessened when rear facing. See this video:

  51. Aimee March 30, 2011 at 7:31 am #

    For those of you who are saying that your seat doesn’t fit in your car rear-facing, that is why you should either a) do your homework before you buy a carseat– there are lots of resources out there that talk about specific models of cars and what seats fit best in them or b) test drive seats. To me, that is an excuse, not a legitimate reason to turn your kids around to forward facing when it’s clearly proven that rear-facing is so much safer.

  52. Vi March 30, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    As much as I enjoy your blog and your overall message, I have to disagree with you on this one. I think of risk as one of benefits and costs. There is a lost benefit when we coddle our children and don’t let them play outside. They lose out on the opportunity to learn new skills, figure out how to navigate streets, learn some independence. In the case of car seats, I don’t see a lost benefit in placing my 1 – 2 yr old in a rear facing seat, and there is a real statistical gain in safety. It’s about the balance of benefits and costs. One extreme of all safety is wrong, but as is the other extreme (which I see this post as) is also just as wrong IMO.

  53. Emily March 30, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    this one is CGI, but it’s illuminating:

    this is one place where I will follow the recommendations. And I plan on being as free range as they come (when he’s older than 14 months, obviously)

  54. Becca March 30, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    Donna, that reminds me of when my son was at his 12 month check up, which was about 3 weeks after his birthday. I hadn’t turned his car seat around yet because he’s a tiny boy and I wanted to make sure he met the weight requirement (law). The doctor was really confused as to why I hadn’t turned him around the day of his birthday. I have to admit I was confused by the doctor’s reaction.

    As for being rear facing until their two. Personally I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it (again) and not pass judgement on those that turn “early or late”. Every parent has their reasons.

  55. socalledauthor March 30, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    Actually I DID do research and thought that I had found the answer. It was a compromise between cost and size and there were quite a few responses that said that the car seat we picked WOULD fit in a “small car.” Imagine how disappointed I was to find that didn’t fit in our car after purchasing it.

    And there’s that little dig about how I’m making the wrong choice to even consider turning my child around. It’s a recommendation– at the end of the day, it’s up to me, as a parent, to make the risk-benefit decision. I will have to live with the consequences, which apparently includes scorn from other parents…

  56. Donna March 30, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    “My concern is that with this new recommendation there will undoubtedly be a whole rash of new laws *requiring* kids to stay rear facing until 2 or 3 or whatever.”

    This hits the nail on the head as to why I have a problem with it. If you want to keep your kid rear facing until college, go ahead. Just don’t tell me how I need to put my child in the car. Rear-facing didn’t work for us when my daughter was a baby. Rear-facing would have been absolute torture for me as a child (serious carsickness issues). I was very comfortable with my decision to move my child forward-facing before she was 1. I was also very comfortable with moving my child to a booster when she was 4 but extremely small for her age.

    And, yes, car accidents are the leading cause of death of young children. They’re still pretty damn rare (accidents that cause serious injury or death, not car accidents themselves). While each death is tragic, young children are not dying in car wrecks at alarmingly high rates in my area in their forward-facing car seats. I can only think of 1 in the last 2-3 years that was made known (and our local paper writes about every traffic fatality within the 5 county distribution area). The largest group of car accident deaths is teenagers/young adults and not the toddler-set.

  57. Sara March 30, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    I too completely disagree with you here. In one of the largest areas of real risk (not crazy perceived risk) safety should be followed!

  58. Rhiannon March 30, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    Honestly? I’m so appalled by this that it’s making me hard to take you seriously in general.

  59. Theresa March 30, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    I would like to see some numbers illustrating the types of crashes children tend to be in. Parents are not your average drivers, we are far more careful, do not drive at night with our kids in the car, and are thus ( I would guess) at a far lower risk of a head on collision.

  60. Aimee March 30, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    @Rhiannon, amen…

  61. Toni March 30, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    I am free range through and through. My 4-year-olds make other parents cringe because they climb and dangle from bars and jump and test their envelopes; in the process, they have bitten tongues and lips and have earned a few battle scars. But, they are still rear-facing in my car (Daddy’s car is too small to accommodate non-infant rear-facing seats). They actually find it MORE comfortable because they have someplace to put their legs, instead of having them dangle uncomfortably in the air (they rest them on top of the back seats). They see out the back window and chatter constantly about everything that’s going on outside in the world…it just so happens that their viewpoint is the same as that which I get from my rear-view mirror! They know both ways of riding, so it’s not like they don’t know what they’re missing out on! Our seats rear-face until 40 lbs, and they’ll be rear-facing until that point (we have about another 7 lbs. to go).

    Just before I turned one, my mother drove from Texas to upstate NY with me in a CARDBOARD BOX. It’s what was done back then. Indeed, if these cars-eat rules had been in place in my day, I’d have needed to take my driving test in a booster! (As it was, I sat upon a couple of phone books.) But my mom was in law enforcement and in law enforcement circles, the rear-facing seats are known as the “orphan seats” because, in the event of a bad crash, they are sometimes they only ones who survive.

    Free range is great, but not in the car!

  62. Fisyd March 30, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    Melanie, lots of my friends in aus have rear facing car seats. There has been legislation pending for years now to get Aussie laws brought up to international standards. Volvo has been lobbying like mad on behalf of Australian children. Isofix isn’t even legal here – totally appalling. I have my kids in an “illegal” isofix seat from Europe and will be happy to pay any fines i’m given.

  63. Virginia March 30, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    I have very mixed feelings about this. My first reaction to the new recommendations was intense irritation mixed with gratitude that my own kids are too old to be affected by it. I have a family member who, by her own admission, is a “sanctimommy” on the carseat issue — she won’t even take her kids’ carseats out of her car because they’ve been professionally installed — and she’s been all over it and kind of driving me crazy. On a day-to-day basis, car accidents are pretty rare. And these “recommendations” do have a tendency to morph into laws that don’t allow for individual needs.

    On the other hand, these carseats do seem to be used in other countries without any major issues, so I have to admit that it’s possible that the benefit (fewer toddler deaths in car accidents) exceeds the cost.

    Bottom line is, I’m really glad that I don’t have to deal with this issue!

  64. Layne March 30, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    The state in which I live allows learners permits at 14. That seems riskier than making an 11-year-old ride in a car seat.

  65. farrarwilliams March 30, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    When I first heard this, my first thought was about what this blog had said about the economics of banning the drop side cribs and how those were the cheapest cribs, meaning that now all parents were obliged to spend more on cribs. Again, the carseats that allow children to sit rear-facing for longer are the most expensive ones. Obviously, this is different – a lot more kids die in car accidents than in accidents caused by those cribs, but I still pause and wonder about who is benefiting here. The difference in prices for those seats can be more than 100% – sure, it’s easy to say that safety should be bought at any cost, but tell that to someone who’s completely broke. How difficult it can be to scrape together twice as much for a carseat.

    And I must say that the idea that kids sit rear-facing until they’re 4 yo in Sweden astounds me. I can’t figure out how one would make that comfortable for the child without completely re-engineering the whole idea of carseat and car. I’m not doubting it, I just can’t picture it – even the really expensive ones here don’t seem to allow for that as far as I know.

    The day we turned the kids’ carseats around at long last was one of the happiest days of my early parenting life. They stopped screaming. Finally. FINALLY we could go more than a block away in the car without all enduring psychological torture. I see what people are saying about the safety, and I’m not arguing exactly. All I know is turning my kids’ carseats around helped me be a better driver because I wasn’t in tears the whole time so I’m really glad this recommendation didn’t exist when they were small – because it’s likely I would have followed it. It’s safer, I get it… I just am so glad to not have to do it because my kids are older.

  66. maggie March 30, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    The problem is, where does it stop? When is rear facing until 2 or 3 not safe enough? A few children will still regrettably die. What then? Plastic bubbles? Preventative helmets? No riding in cars at all?

  67. Janet March 30, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Another reader disappointed in the FRK attitude to this topic.

    I honestly don’t see the issue. Children legally must be in a child restraint until a long way past 2 years old. Why is it such a big deal to mandate that it be rear-facing, which, let’s face it, IS safer than forward-facing?

    You in the USA are incredibly lucky that most of your regular, affordable child restraints allow rear-facing to 35lb+. Leg length is NOT an issue, kids are happy to cross their legs, or hang them over the sides.

    Here in Australia, our seats are much more restrictive, and most children outgrow their rear-facing seats very quickly. On top of that, the legislation here allows for forward-facing at six months (don’t get me started on that one).

    Perhaps FRK would like to see Australia’s previous laws (only updated in 2010) adopted – children only legally required to be in a restraint until 12 months old, and after that a seatbelt is fine? After all, we as parents should have the choice, right???

  68. Jane March 30, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    Nope. Sorry. Car accidents are the #1 cause of deaths among young children. Anything I can do to keep my baby safer in the car, or keep him out of the car in the first place, I’m going to do. This is like bike helmets and sunscreen- safety measures that are sensible and actually make a difference. Not like forbidding kids to walk home from school.

    My son is 17 months, 25 pounds. Our car seat will go up to 30 pounds before he has to be turned. We have a Hyundai Elantra, and the seat can fit rear-facing in the center of the backseat.

  69. thinkbannedthoughts March 30, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    I am so glad you picked up on this and posted. I am sure there are hoards of people defending the need to strap our children down in the name of safety. I am not one of them.
    Each of my daughters has nearly died BECAUSE of being strapped into the car seats in the back seat of the car where I couldn’t reach them. In the 7 years that I have had kids I have only been grateful for car seats one time. And the truth is even that time a seatbelt would have worked out just fine.
    We need to stop child and idiot proofing the world. In the end it just makes children and idiots of us all.

  70. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 8:53 am #


    How many car accidents have you heard about where both drivers claimed to be “at fault”? It doesn’t matter if you are the safest driver in the whole wide world. That won’t matter one bit when the 14-year-old with the learner’s permit (brought up by @layne) – who is probably reading a text or something – flies through a red light and t-bones you. Plenty of “good drivers” get hit. Given the speeds at which we drive, most crashes are unavoidable.

    Having said that, I can tell you that PLENTY of parents are horrible drivers. Sometimes because their kids are being distracting, but sometimes because THEY are the ones texting, or reading a text, or chatting on the phone, or trying to put on make-up.

    Point is, car crashes are not a remote risk. They’re plentiful, they’re daily, they’re probable, and they are completely random. Young, old, single, married, parent or not, it’s a possibility that should always be on the radar. And there is not a reason in the world that you should not be as well-prepared for it as possible.

  71. Shannon March 30, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Quoting Rhiannon: “Honestly? I’m so appalled by this that it’s making me hard to take you seriously in general.”

    Disappointed doesn’t even BEGIN to describe the way I feel about this post. I won’t repeat what nearly every other commenter has said, because they said it well, but this is WAYYYYYY off the mark and really, truly discredits everything else you teach/promote!

    “Personally, I don’t get how that even works. Do we cut off their legs?” <–Seriously? Don't you ever sit "criss-cross applesauce" with your legs bent? Even a 2 second google search would answer this question for you. There are entire websites dedicated to extended rear facing (ERF) with photographs of children of ALL sizes and ages rear facing with NO problems with their legs. They bend/fold them. It's simply NOT an issue. Worst case scenario, they break a leg … that's NOTHING compared to a severed spinal cord.

    So, so disappointed. Ugh. 🙁 Your site is great, your views are challenging … but this is uneducated and irresponsible.

  72. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 8:59 am #


    The STATISTICS show that by age 4 a child’s neck can handle crash forces about as well as an adults. What does a kid look like rear-facing right before he’s 4? Well, about like this:

    He just looks completely miserable, huh?

  73. Becca O March 30, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    The cars and seats in other countries where they are rear facing to 4 are designed differently.

  74. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    @farrarwilliams said: “Again, the carseats that allow children to sit rear-facing for longer are the most expensive ones.”

    NOPE! Cosco Scenera, rear-faces to 35 lbs. $55
    Graco MyRide, rear-faces to 40 lbs. $130

    I hate to be the bearer of truth, but the organizations that published these guidelines have no interest in making money or selling car seats. They just want to stop the EPIDEMIC of children who are DYING.

    Funny, if the number one cause of DEATH to KIDS was cough syrup, parents would be up in arms demanding a recall, suing the manufacturer, etc. and you can be for-darned-sure that no parent in their right mind would ever think of giving their child that syrup. They’d have their kids taken away from them by child services if they so much as suggested that it was their right as a parent to decide whether to use the cough syrup.

    But when it’s an unavoidable (for many people) situation that can be made safer by following these fairly simple guidelines, people get their panties in a wad because they’ve already made up their mind that it’s “inconvenient” or “overprotective.”

  75. Erin March 30, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    Another fan objecting to this post. I thought free range was about recognizing real risks and not overhyping fake ones? Car accidents are really dangerous, and what kind of freedom is a toddler giving up by facing the rear? The freedom to be a back seat driver? I reall don’t follow.

    My son is over 14 mo and tall AND I have a small car and yet he rides comfortably rear facing. No need for leg amputation at all. Sorry Lenore, you’re looking a little reactionary on this one.

  76. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    @farrarwilliams – found another.

    Cosco Scenera 40RF goes to 40 lbs rear-facing (as the name suggests) and is only $50

    There are at least 12 models under $200, some of them that convert to a booster and can be used until the child is completely out of a seat. Really, this isn’t about the money.

  77. Theresa March 30, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    I have to disagree with this too. My daughter is 1.5 years old and still rearfacing comfortably. We have a Honda Fit and a Britax Marathon seat installed behind the passenger seat because my husband is 6’1″ and can’t drive when it is installed rearfacing behind the driver’s seat. However, he can still fit comfortably into the passenger seat and has for many a roadtrip so I’m really not buying the “my car is too small” argument. (My FIL has also fit into the front passenger seat and he’s 6’3″ and 250lbs, he might not have been comfortable, but he fit for a 4 hour drive and yes, my seat has been checked by a carseat tech.)

    As for the argument that keeping a child rearfacing is somehow keeping them from having as much freedom as they should I just don’t get it. They are strapped in one place anytime they are in the car anyway, why does it matter which way they are facing. My daughter can easily see out the back of the car as well as the side window. She can also see forward with the use of a mirror which makes it easy for her to see that we are still there if need be. How is this worse than the choice between looking out the window or looking at the back of my seat? I can still talk to her and she can still talk to me. The car is small so hearing isn’t a problem and it’s not like we would be making eye contact anyway if I’m in the front seat and she’s in the back. As for nursing in the car, I find this really easy to do with everyone buckled in when my daughter is rearfacing. I just sit in the seat next to her and lean over, no problem.

    From this you might think I am a helicopter parent, but I’m really not. My daughter has free run of about 70% of the house and when we go to the park I sit on a bench and talk to my friends while she plays with hers (remember she’s 1.5, she’s not old enough to find the place on her own or to have the impulse control not to run into the street without a reminder yet). She can even buckle the top buckle on her carseat, brush her teeth, comb her hair and is beginning to be able to put on her own shoes. She walks out to the car herself and will even climb into her carseat about half the time. She had no problems if I am cooking dinner while she’s playing, though she will sometimes wander over to watch or beg for snacks if I’m making something she likes. She even plays with dogs and cats that she hasn’t met before once I double check that they understand kids and are used to them (this is as much for the animal’s sake as my daughter’s). She is really independent, but that doesn’t mean that she is somehow in less danger than other kids in the car so why not keep her rearfacing until we have to switch her for some real reason?

  78. FRM March 30, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Just a thought…. maybe people should quite driving so bloody much and then there wouldn’t be the accidents. Keep your kid rear-facing so that when you cause an accident because you are texting, GPSing or maybe had a few too many to drink, at least your kid will be safe. If you look up safety stats you will find that the more safety regulations are implemented the more accidents actually happen. People seem to think that safety regulations means that you don’t have to actually think about what you are doing. When cars became safer, people drove more like idiots. When is enough enough? We should all just live in a bubble and then no one could get injured. Why isn’t there such a bigger outcry over people who don’t pay attention to the road? I mean passengers, radios, coffee, food, books, cell phones, billboards, animals are all distractions and cause people to not pay attention to the road. Seriously try not driving as much, it will be better for the environment, better for your kids and not cost as much money.

  79. culdescahero March 30, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    Everyone here screaming that Lenore has it wrong needs to think about the difference between recommendation and regulation (law). Recommendations are flexible and regulations are not. They also stifle inovation and can be more dangerous when they get it wrong. Remember how many children were killed by airbags when the law forced everyone to keep kids in rear-facing carseats in the front seat? That was regulation.

    Nobody is saying that you can’t keep their kids rear-facing longer than necessary. However, for some, it is impractical. Regulations don’t care if mommy has a bad back, your baby is growing like a linebacker or it’s hard for grandma to hoist a 23 month old into a rear facing seat in the back of her Toyota Yaris. These are real-life situations where parents need to weigh the risks.

    My kids couldn’t fit in a rear-facing seat much longer than the minimum. They were thrilled to be able to climb up to their front-facing seats and it’s much easier to install/un-install/re-install properly.

    If you’re still convinced that safety is paramount to all other concerns, then ask yourself why we don’t all need 4 point harnesses, roll-cages and crash helmets to get our groceries. Why not, so the ladies can keep their hair looking nice? How many lives would they save? Probably many – if only because the helmet would make it harder to use your blue tooth device to make dinner plans on your way back from soccer practice.

    So, maybe you think it is safer and it works for you. That’s fine, but be careful about advocating for regulations. THAT is the key FR issue IMO.

  80. Mrs Embers March 30, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    I’m SO glad my kids are build like their dad, and that they’re both old enough (at 3 and 5) to be outside of (or almost outside of) this argument. I can see the benefits to keeping kids rear-facing, but in our case it didn’t work. Call it an excuse if you want to, but we turned our kids around as soon as they met size-and-age requirements; we drove a Ford Focus wagon at the time and the front-seat passenger still had to sit with his/her knees squashed against the dashboard when the seats were rear-facing. I’d have loved to buy a different carseat that fit better, but we had no money, so we did the best we could with what we had.

    I guess what I want to say is that recommendations are fine, but they don’t work for everyone, and when people start screaming at each other over it, it just seems crazy. I have no reason to think people who seat their 4-year olds backwards are weird, but I also don’t think there’s any reason for people to be pushing to make it a law, or jumping down my throat for the way I seat my kids.

    Lenore, you must have the thickest skin in the business to keep posting after some of the comments you get- rude much? I don’t agree with everything you write, but you always make me think, and I appreciate that .

    Reading this post and all of the comments has given me lots to think about- though I can tell you right now that there’s no WAY my 3-year old would let me put him back into a rear-facing seat now that he’s graduated to a “big boy seat”, even if I thought it was a good idea! If anything, the comments have made me think about how safe cars are (not) in general and made me want to drive the kids around less, which has to be some kind of free-range victory, right? 🙂

  81. culdescahero March 30, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    “We have a Honda Fit and a Britax Marathon seat installed behind the passenger seat because my husband is 6’1″ and can’t drive when it is installed rearfacing behind the driver’s seat. However, he can still fit comfortably into the passenger seat and has for many a roadtrip so I’m really not buying the “my car is too small” argument. ”
    You just proved your car is too small to fit the seat behind you’re husband. What if you had two kids and he has to drive them somewhere?

  82. cindy March 30, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    I lost a lot of respect for your blog when I read this posting. It heartens me for society that most of the other posters also disagree with your take on what is a common sense pediatric health issue. (I work at a children’s hospital and hope others never have to experience some of the tragic car accident outcomes I have seen.)

  83. Christina March 30, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    I turned my kids around the MOMENT they were big enough. Why? Because it was a screamfest in the car from day one. I walked everywhere I possibly could, regardless of weather, just to avoid getting in the car and listen to that noise (twin boys). Combine sleep deprivation with the stress and distraction of two screaming kids, and that is one awesome recipe for a wreck. The moment I turned those seats around, the screaming stopped. Bliss. I still avoided driving whenever and wherever possible (I really do like to walk), but I felt much safer when I was in the car. And not for nothing, if I had left the boys rear-facing until 2, their knees would have been up by their freaking ears. They are flexible kids, but who in their right mind would think kids would find that remotely comfortable?

  84. Kara March 30, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    I am a car seat advocate and would literally stop the car if my kids removed their seat belt, so they always knew that the seat was not optional. My kids were small and stayed in the 5 point harness past the required age.

    However, I agree that the laws are pushing further with older and older kids requiring boosters. It makes it really difficult to carpool because the seats don’t fit. Where will it end? I don’t own an SUV and it doesn’t cost me $100 to fill my gas tank and I like it that way. It means that with my two kids that we can only bring one friend because no kids can sit in the front with the airbag.

    I also agree that the rear facing seats are extremely difficult to install. I have seen seats so loose that the whole thing rocked from side to side when the car went around the corner. And these are not slacker parents either.

    Can’t we just give parents recommendations and let them make decisions? Isn’t life hard enough for parents without putting more laws on the books that criminalize basic parenting?

  85. Uly March 30, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    Personally, I don’t get how that even works. Do we cut off their legs?

    Legs have this nifty new feature called knees. They bend!

  86. Alicia March 30, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    I have to disagree with this post. It’s simple common sense to have a child with a head that’s a third of it’s body size sit backwards to support it’s head. The same amount of force that causes mild whiplash in an adult can snap the neck bones of a toddler who has such a heavy head for it’s neck and body size. So recommending that toddlers sit backwards until their heads and bodies are more equal in size, and their necks bigger and stronger is intelligent.

    For once I think the desire to be so ‘free’ is blinding one to something that is actually worthwhile as it blinded Mr. Rowland. For once this recommendation isn’t overkill or done to induce hysteria. With so many children actually killed in car accidents every year (a true fact and not one only said to scare everyone), anything that can further protect them in cars is a good thing. This time around it’s this blog and Mr. Rowland that is presenting the overkill. Having to cut kids legs off? Really? Last I checked those young toddlers are pretty freakin’ flexible, so all they have to do is cross their legs or find some other position. It’s not hard.

    I will admit that my 4 year old was turned around at age 1 because he fit all of the minimum requirements, but I’ve since learned better, and for this once I’m following the recommendation the next time around. It’s no different than learning that babies sleeping on their backs greatly reduces the occurance of SIDS after having your first kid sleep on their stomach. The scientific evidence of an actual increase in safety is there, and it would almost be ridiculous to not embrace it as one if the few things that truly helps all around.

  87. Emiky March 30, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    Maybe I read the blog wrong, but it seemed Lenore was commenting more on the super-safety thoughts and less on the specifics of car seats, so I don’t know what the hype is.

    My concern is not so much car seats (which I like) but on how they are used. The best seat is useless if not installed properly. And technically 8-year-olds are supposed to be in them, yet I never see that.

  88. Kurt Kemmerer March 30, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    I’m happy to see that I am not alone (by a long shot) among free-range parents who find that the recommendation to keep seats facing backwards until two years of age (coming as it does from a fair amount of evidence) is a worthy recommendation. The columnist’s argument is full of logical fallacies that have no place in an evidence-based movement.

  89. Kurt Kemmerer March 30, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    thinkbannedthoughts: Anecdotes are not data. You are using an extreme logical fallacy to defend your stance.

  90. dmd March 30, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Emiky, my son is 9 and still in a car seat. In the middle position no less.

  91. Alexicographer March 30, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    I’m with Shannon and others, “Disappointed doesn’t even BEGIN to describe the way I feel about this post.” That said, most of the comments are heartening.

    Those asking about carpooling with kids (or planning travel, or who regularly combine car and public transport) might be interested in this contraption I recently found online: Safe Rider Travel Vest. Search on Amazon, google, etc., it’ll pop right up. As far as I can tell, for kids 3+ and at least 30 lbs and 34″ tall, it meets US safety standards and is basically stash-in-a-purse-until-needed/safe-with-nothing-more-than-a-seatbelt (shoulder belt or latch system). I haven’t used it so can’t recommend it but am planning to buy one for a trip I’ll be taking soon with my preschooler; once it arrives, I can report back. But except in exceptional cases (e.g. trips) yes, I do plan to keep my preschooler in a 5-point harness in a seat that’s had expert (fire department, where I live) attention to its proper installation, thank you very much.

    Those asking if, as small adults, they would be safer with booster seats — the answer is yes. Your decision, of course, whether you want that safety.

  92. 5reikids March 30, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    This blog topic makes me lose a lot of respect for you Lenore…this really is one of those topics where there is scientific evidence to back up the numbers “tossed around” out there. Ignoring it is doing a disservice to your kids.
    I would rather deal with the “inconvenience” and the “annoyance” of safe & proper carseats (and boosters!) for my kids, than deal with the fall-out and aftermath of NOT using one when I needed to.
    Guess what? I’m 5’3″ and I’d still use a booster if there was one that fit me comfortably and was inexpensive enough. Proper belt fit is VITAL…which is why they say that 4’9″ is the MINIMUM a person should be in a vehicle belt without a booster. They are designed to fit a 5’8″ 200lb male…so unless you are those specs, that belt will need to be adjusted to fit you.
    My 10yo is in a high-back booster and will be until we have no other choice (as will the other 4 free-range kids that follow him)…we have a full size van with no head restraints, and it’s a safety issue if there aren’t proper head restraints. Again, full circle back to product testing, an the science that backs it up.

    A disappointing, knee-jerk, unresearched, reactionary blog to say the least…

  93. maggie March 30, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    The problem is, “anything that can further protect them in cars is a good thing”. There are probably a dozen more devices that could protect our kids in cars. This will become yet one more law we must obey, to the detriment of our freedom. Nobody wants their children hurt or killed in a car. I think Lenore brought this up not as a rail against car seats, but against a government that is taking away more and more of our rights to parent how we decide to. It may not be a law yet, but give it time!

  94. Nicole March 30, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    please read and view the videos on this site, before jumping onto the “his legs will be uncomfortable” “we got along fine when we…” “he didn’t like to be rear facing” etc bandwagon

  95. Uly March 30, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    They are flexible kids, but who in their right mind would think kids would find that remotely comfortable?

    Somebody who has spent a dinner at my house, where we’re constantly telling the girls to sit properly and stop contorting themselves at the table.

    Parents are not your average drivers, we are far more careful, do not drive at night with our kids in the car, and are thus (I would guess) at a far lower risk of a head on collision.

    You don’t drive at night with your kids in the car? No parent does? No parent EVER picks up the kids from the babysitter at night, or lives where it gets dark early in winter, or decides to make their trip to Grandma’s starting at 8pm so the kids sleep through it?

    Around here, I constantly am seeing small children on the SI Ferry at 8, 9, 10, 11 at night. These children are getting off the boat and going right on the bus… or in a car. I think it’s a little late, but if you work late in the city, what can you do? You take the kid home when you go home.

    ALL parents are careful drivers, ALL the time? None of them are ever a little distracted by squabbling children? Alcoholics never become parents, and there’s never any risk of them driving drunk with kids? (Sad to say, that one’s not true at all.)

    And even if that were all true, the other drivers are still the “average driver”. Car crashes are still the leading cause of death for children under the age of 15 – that is, children who are NOT learning how to drive yet. (It’s also the leading cause of death for children older than 15, and for all Americans, actually.)

    Your kid CAN see plenty from a rear-facing view (heck, when I was a kid, back in the bad old days, I used to sit backwards on the bus, and in the few times I rode in a car, JUST to look out the rear-view mirror!) And if everybody in your area is putting their short, skinny children in booster seats at the age of nine (much less if it is the law!) your children probably are NOT significantly embarrassed by it because they see it as normal.

    This isn’t really a free-range issue. However you sit in a car, there just isn’t that much scope for movement or decision-making on the part of the passengers.

  96. SKL March 30, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    Oh, how I wish I had time to read all the comments! Personally I agree that it’s safer to rear-face and that parents should be informed of this. I have NO problem with a benign “recommendation” that still leaves the parents in charge of weighing the pros and cons of turning at, say, 18 months vs. 30 months.

    Personally I kept my kids rear-facing until they were 2.5. BUT this was my decision based on the following: (1) they are petite and were not at all uncomfortable; (2) they had each other to look at and touch; (3) they never complained and were really good travelers; (4) during winters, I do a fair amount of driving in treacherous conditions at high speeds, and where I live, winter is 6 months of the year. I turned the girls after their 2nd winter.

    The reason I turned them was that it was getting ridiculous that they couldn’t see where we were going, what I was talking about, or even the stop lights/signs that explained why I was stopping and starting. If we didn’t have such foul winters, I would have turned them sooner. I felt I was risking their intelligence if I kept them staring out the back (at the sky) for any longer.

    I know many parents have kids who scream, puke (from carsickness), or otherwise feel uncomfortable when rear-facing. They need to be able to weigh the pros and cons, same as I did. If I had a screamer or a puker, maybe I would have turned the girls earlier, because being screamed at doesn’t exactly make me a safer driver! Nor does that fact mean I’m not as caring a mom as another who puts up with the screaming until their child is 6.

    As for the boosters – after buying ours recently, I have to say they seem less safe than lap belts alone. I noticed someone above posted a link to that effect, and I am not surprised. I will use them because the kids like them and it’s the law. But I don’t feel like an awesome mother for using them.

    Another thing about the “accidents” statistic. That is one that people twist and turn all kinds of ways to suit their agenda. The vast majority of fatal accidents from ages 1-4 occur in the home. Also, when they say “car accidents,” are they including accidents where the victim isn’t even in the dang car? Do they include accidents caused by drunk parents who don’t bother to buckle their kids in at all? If car seats and boosters were going to solve all thes problems, why are “car accidents” STILL the #1 cause of kid death after all these years of strict regulations??

  97. Dragonwolf March 30, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    I actually don’t have an issue with the rear-facing until 2 recommendation. I remember reading somewhere that, in the vast majority of cases, everyone would be safter if we were rear-facing (nevermind the logistics of the driver being rear-facing, though that could be fixed with technology now).

    What I do have an issue with is the booster seat thing that goes along with this new carseat recommendation. It recommends 4’9″. I know a number of adults that don’t meet that height recommendation. My local radio station talked about this one morning and one of the hosts mentioned about how she’s had friends that were too small/light to trigger the passenger side air bag.

    I also have an issue with the fact that cars are designed such that we need these recommendations. If safety recommendations are getting to the point that it’s affecting a good amount of the adult population, and even a good chunk of the population that, in some states, can get a driver’s license, then it’s not the recommendations that need changed, but the design of the cars.

  98. Uly March 30, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    If car seats and boosters were going to solve all thes problems, why are “car accidents” STILL the #1 cause of kid death after all these years of strict regulations??

    Oooh, oooh, I know this one!

    It’s because we’re still a massively car-dependent society!

    In a way, looking at car seats is the wrong way to go about it. The root problem is the fact that people think they need cars to get around. And sometimes they DO need cars to get around – but I’ve had people (on Staten Island, where bus service is abysmal) that it’s “too far” to walk someplace that turned out to be 15 minutes away (and that’s counting the fact that I was lost, just today!) or that is only a mile away (another day) or that just TOLD them I’d walked with my young nieces. It’s gotten to the point where the phrase “it’s too far to walk” makes me want to walk it, time it, and send them a record in the mail.

    The real solution is dazzling in its simplicity, though it’ll be difficult to implement: More walkable communities (more sidewalks, as many children as possible within a short walk to their school and a local playground or park, mixed-use zoning, traffic calming measures taken seriously), better mass transit (more of it, more frequent, consistently clean, subsidized so it’s cheaper), better bike paths (or any!) that are enforced, and so on.

    It’s possible (at least in most areas – very rural areas would understandably have a hard time with most mass transit, lacking the, uh, mass, but as the US is 85% urbanized I don’t see why that should keep the rest of us from moving in that direction), but you have to take the long view.

    In the short view – car seats.

    As for “why is it still the top cause of death”, well, because hurtling along the road at 35 mph (to say nothing of 65+) in a large, heavy vehicle with other large, heavy vehicles around you doing the same thing is an inherently, well, kinda risky task. You can do your best to make it safer, but… yeah. I’m totally making up these numbers, but let’s say there were 50 deaths in car accidents, 25 deaths by cancer, and 15 deaths by… um… heart disease. If you reduce the deaths in car accidents by 25%, they’re still in the lead, still close to 50% higher than the next highest.

    I don’t know the real numbers off the top of my head (obviously, I wish there were only 50 deaths a year due to car accidents!), but “reducing fatalities” does not necessarily have to mean “making this the number two most common cause of death in the US”. The math doesn’t have to do that, and it’s not logical to assume it must.

  99. Larry Harrison March 30, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    We gladly switched our 2 year old to front-facing even before he was 1 year old (9 months or so). It was a tight squeeze otherwise, he was comforted being able to see us, and–frankly–it was more convenient for us.

    NO WAY we would’ve strapped in a rear-facing seat the past year REGARDLESS of what the law says. At least we weren’t lap-riding them. Stay out of our car & our parenting. We’re the ones doing all of the work, “how we roll” is OUR business.

    Android Froyo on Samsung Captivate

  100. SKL March 30, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    I am also skeptical about some of the “facts” they tell us about rear-facing.

    1) “Most accidents are front-end collisions, and only 4% are rear-end collisions.” OK, first, every accident I’ve ever been in involved someone rear-ending someone else. That’s one front-end hitting one rear-end. And the rear-end was usually mine! So when they say most accidents are front-end accidents, are they including the rear-ender accidents? Now then, what is the true ratio of front-end impact vs. rear-end impact? This is significant because even the experts admit that a rear-facing child is LESS SAFE in a rear-end collision!

    The other thing is that I have a lot more control over whether I have a front-end collision than a rear-end collision. Like, I can choose not to drive at high speeds, not to drive while impaired, not to race, to keep my car well-maintained, etc. So far that has prevented me from ever having a front-end collision since I’ve been a parent, and never having a serious one ever. But none of my precautions could have prevented the REAR-end collision we experienced when another driver didn’t notice I’d stopped at a red light.

    2) “The bigger kids can bend their knees.” But aren’t the knees projectiles, just waiting to be flung into the rear-facing child’s face in the event of a severe front-end impact? And if so, isn’t the real danger that the child could break his facial bones and seriously damage his skull or brain?

    I’m glad Sweden has everything figured out, but they even admit that they spend less time in cars than we do, and they have a smaller population, and surely there are lots of other differences that make the comparison unhelpful. In short, I really don’t care what Sweden does and I’m kinda sick of hearing it.

    This is from a mom who freely chose to rear-face until 2.5.

  101. Janet March 30, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    I have just read the Update part of the original blog entry.

    I think the reason I had such an issue with this post originally is BECAUSE of the blurb at the left of the home page saying that FRK believes in car seats and bike helmets! I didn’t think it was such a huge leap to believe in using a car seat that installed the opposite way to a “regular” car seat!!!

    Anyway, I was glad to read the update. I absolutely agree that there comes a point where we have to draw a line at ridiculous measures to make what is very, very safe even safer. I just don’t think of r/f as such a ridiculous measure!

  102. Ashley March 30, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    @Theresa: I’d love to see pictures of this, because if I get my Britax Marathon rearfacing behind the passenger seat of the Honda Fit, the seat must be pushed all the way forward and my husband’s knees are shoved against the airbag. Which, you know, is completely unsafe. So unless your husband has bizarro legs or your Honda Fit is much larger than mine, I dont’ buy it.

  103. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    @Lenore – Appreciate the update. Would appreciate a full retraction even more. 🙂

    @SKL – “If car seats and boosters were going to solve all thes problems, why are “car accidents” STILL the #1 cause of kid death after all these years of strict regulations??”

    Because there are more cars on the roads than ever before, going at higher speeds than ever before (and the stats are coming down…a little). And because somewhere between 95-99% of the child restraints that are being used are being used incorrectly.

    “So when they say most accidents are front-end accidents, are they including the rear-ender accidents? Now then, what is the true ratio of front-end impact vs. rear-end impact?”

    Still the same. Put it this way – in nearly ALL 2-car crashes, at least 1 car is going to be involved in a “frontal” collision. That’s 50% right there. Then you add in all the head-to-head collisions, and all the “vehicle into tree” “vehicle into light-pole” and “vehicle into other non-vehicle object” crashes and that’s why only 4% are rear-end crashes. Plus a bunch of other statistical data that show rear-end to be the most “benign” type of crash.

    “But aren’t the knees projectiles, just waiting to be flung into the rear-facing child’s face in the event of a severe front-end impact? And if so, isn’t the real danger that the child could break his facial bones and seriously damage his skull or brain?”

    Again, just take a look at the stats (or the videos that are posted above). The way a rear-facing seat performs in a crash is much different than what you’re picturing. And the stats don’t lie. A child’s face, skull, brains AND LEGS are all at more risk when they’re turned forward-facing.

    The problem here is that they’re not “facts” . They’re FACTS. No grey. Black. White. Fact.

  104. Lori March 30, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    I’m glad you updated this post. One of the things I’ve always admired about your philosophy is that you don’t discount safety. I’d be interested in hearing Tim Rowland’s take on this issue after he actually has kids. I’d say we all “knew” a lot about parenting and kids before we actually had any.

  105. Erika March 30, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    For those who wonder why the boosters until 4’9″, here’s the deal. A lap belt is safest if it fits across the passenger’s hip bones. If it lies above that, then there’s nothing that can keep the belt from digging into the soft flesh (and underlying organs) in the abdomen, and doing real damage. So a booster might *seem* more dangerous than the lap/shoulder belt alone, b/c it’s not tethered the way an infant or toddler seat is, but it really is safer.

    My kid just turned 8, and the law in WI is 80 lbs OR 4’9″ OR 8 yrs old, whichever comes first. We’ve hit on a compromise that if she’s in a friend’s car, she shd use the booster if they’re also using one, but she doesn’t have to if they also don’t. In our car, she uses the booster. She finds it more comfortable, anyway…

  106. Mike W March 30, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    It would seem that conventional wisdom backed by fact indicates that rear facing is in fact the way to go and Lenore may have posted a bit hastily. But before everyone continues to get all holier than thou on Ms. Skenazy, I would like to thank her for all of her posts and for taking a stand against the over protective and fear inducing childhood so many others attempt to force on my family. So let’s all take it as rote that rear facing is the way to go and look forward to her next post or Journal article questioning those who would have me living in fear of the latest bogeyman.

  107. bw March 30, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    you have to wonder about the whole rear-facing thing – it all depends on the type of accident. The recommendations are based on a front end collision, but a safety fixated parent is more likely to be rear-ended than run into something. In that case, the rear facing seat would act like a front facing one. The first thing one learns in Physics is that all motion and acceleration are relative to one’s frame of reference.

  108. Larry Harrison March 30, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    I posted my thoughts quickly not having yet read the pre-existing ones first, and quickly punched out my quick thoughts from my cellular phone.

    Now I’ve read the comments, I’m at a PC, and I am going to comment further.

    I am, frankly, shocked & disappointed at the nastiness of many of the “you blew it, Lenore!!” comments. The woman stated her opinion, which is her right–and her blog, might I add–and I didn’t for a minute find the comment about cutting off their legs to be in poor taste. The woman uses hyperbole to make her point, in a totally obvious and tasteful manner. If you’ve hung out here longer than a nanosecond, you ought to know better than to think she was being ridiculous (YOU were for saying she was) and refrain from commenting in a way that makes you sound like a horse’s ass.

    As one person made the point of saying, the thing is this–these things have a way of going from “recommendations” to being law, and yes–although car accidents are a much more real threat than predators (Lenore says so herself all the time), still–even with something like this, there is STILL such a thing as being too safe.

    She has said as much on numerous occasions, so her post shouldn’t have been a surprise. What’s more, she has made it clear on any number of occasions that she BELIEVES in car safety, she believes in car seats, so those of you detracting her ought to know that she’s not someone dismissive of safety and an advocate of recklessness.

    And yes, I read the original column, and I agree with the columnist 100%. There comes a point where you can take these things too far, and the safety gained is easily outmeasured by the stifling of the freedom of life associated with it, and frankly it starts going overboard.

    And again, so commonly, it starts out as a “recommendation,” then it becomes a thing of “we need to get the word out so people will know,” and then when you still have “stubborn holdouts who are ignoring the evidence and endangering their kids with their recklessness,” there you go–another nosy busy-bodying law on the books.

    There is a legitimate free-range issue present here, yes, even here–at what point do we lighten up & let parents make their own choices, versus poking our nose into their business and judging them for doing things “the wrong way,” under the guise of “innocent children’s lives are at stake.” Yes, innocent child’s lives are at stake, I am well aware of the gravity of the situation with regards to my being a father & that I’m risking 2 children’s lives with the decisions I make. And yes, there are some situations which warrant legislation and intervention (drug usage & molestation come to mind).

    HOWEVER–I have a news flash for those of you advocating meddling, or even giving me a harsh sermon because I, frankly, switched our son to front-facing seats by age 9 months so as to make it easier on ourselves (we found the seats MUCH easier to buckle that way). This is my news flash–the fact that my wife & I spread our legs and bore fruit doesn’t give you the right to meddle in our private business. I am very highly defensive of this, and for very good reason, and make no apologies for it.

    We as a society didn’t use to have to say these things, we respected parental authority and gave our 2 cents worth in a way that nonetheless respected that the actual parents are the ones to make the final decisions, no matter how much you disagree with it or how much you like it. Yes, in very extreme situations, meddling was a good thing to do, but now we advocate it in almost everything under the premise of “innocent children are at stake.”

    Well, hear this–the day YOU deal with their runny noses, the day YOU have to be around them almost every waking moment wiping their ass, cleaning up their shit-stained underwear (ok, I’m cussing, but I’m mad), running across the room while they piss on the floor you just vacuumed, listening to their whining about something that’s really stupid to whine about (although they don’t think so)–then and ONLY THEN do you get the right to harass & meddle in my and my wife’s parenting business to tell us how to do it.

    In our case, like I said, by the time our son was 9 months of age, he was front-facing. It was MUCH easier to put him in that way, and his legs had room to breathe. Maybe rear-facing was safer, but frankly–so what? Yes, I said it–so what? There’s safe, and then there’s SAFE!!!!, the latter being the type that is very analogous to the safety of a hospital room coupled with the boring sterility of it, and entailing such an exhaustive “list of things you must do to be a responsible parent” that you don’t have time to go the bathroom, because you’re too weighed down with the expectations of doing everything perfectly.

    Yes, there are extreme situations where meddling is warranted, but the issue is this–it never relegates itself to the extreme situations, (and no, I don’t consider this an extreme situation, because we’re not talking about carrying a child loose in their lap, they’re in their car seat regardless–just maybe not in the absolute best way possible). Too many people end up letting their meddling, and their advocation of it, seep into far less extreme situations, until you wake up one day & find out that the entire world is butting their Pinocchio-sized noses into EVERY SINGLE aspect of your life, right down to how many times you go to the bathroom every day and what you’re doing in there besides actually using the bathroom.

    Lenore, I have NO problem with your post, at all, and I beseech you to not be influenced by those posting who have their thumbs up their ass acting all aghast and haughty at you. Shame on them.


  109. Kacey March 30, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    At my daughter’s12 month dr.’s appointment, the doc told us to turn her to forward facing because her feet were hitting the back of the seat. I was prepared to keep her rear facing as long as possible, but it seemed like we had reached that point b/c of her legs. Her 18 month appointment was 2 days after this recommendation came out & now the doc says she should be rear-facing (though she said it would be impossible to turn her back around now). It’s difficult to get wholly different advice from the pediatrician 6 months later. To further complicate matters, my daughter’s height & weight is comparable to a typical 2 year old… so does that mean forward-facing isn’t so bad? The one year recommendation included a weight & the child had to meet both. There was no weight recommendation with this statement.

    I was aware of the tougher car seat standards in Europe because my daughter was born while we were living there. I am also aware that the european car seats are different than american ones. We wanted to buy one, but knowing we were coming back to the states & it wouldn’t have the NTSB approval meant we had to buy american. Toddler car seats, and possibly the car seats themselves, will need a redesign to make this recommendation fully implementable.

    We drive a Volvo, a swedish vehicle, and the convertible seat we got fit fine behind the passenger’s seat… maybe that’s because they keep their kids facing backwards until 4? I don’t know that I could keep her facing backwards that long. Europeans do not spend as much time in the car as we do, so it may be easier for them to eschew any concerns about comfort or family interaction.

    I’m glad you brought this up Lenore, I have been torn about it since first reading the recommendation. I see a strong link to free range parenting because part of it is about making children part of the adult community so that they learn how to be an adult before reaching adulthood. What kind of rights and responsibilities we give them and at what age is always part of the equation. To make the connection more clear here’s an anecdote: some of the best discussions I ever had on religion, philosophy, science etc… happened while I rode in the backseat of our family wagon on vacation. Holding those conversations would have been much more difficult if I had been facing backward. It would have been even harder to see the alluvial fan or big horn sheep my parents were pointing out (seeing where they were pointing, not the object necessarily). I wasn’t having philosophical discussions at 4 years old, but my parents were pointing things out to me for sure.

    Our next child will stay rear facing until 2, but until 4…. we’ll have to see…

  110. Uly March 30, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    I am, frankly, shocked & disappointed at the nastiness of many of the “you blew it, Lenore!!” comments. The woman stated her opinion, which is her right–and her blog, might I add–and I didn’t for a minute find the comment about cutting off their legs to be in poor taste.

    And she posted that opinion up with open comments in a way that asks for replies. Which she got.

    In the past she’s linked to other people’s articles she disagrees with, and people have gone over there and sometimes been very rude (far worse than I’ve seen here today) and certainly made really rude comments here (whether I agree with them or not is beside the point) and I didn’t see you, Larry, taking them to task then.

    Politeness and requests thereof are one thing, hypocrisy is quite another.

    Too many people end up letting their meddling, and their advocation of it, seep into far less extreme situations, until you wake up one day & find out that the entire world is butting their Pinocchio-sized noses into EVERY SINGLE aspect of your life, right down to how many times you go to the bathroom every day and what you’re doing in there besides actually using the bathroom.

    Yes, let’s all go jump right off that slippery slope right now.

    Or, alternatively, the AAP – which is NOT a governmental body and is NOT paid for by our taxes and has NO official ability to do ANYthing about how you raise your children – has suggested that it’s safer if parents keep their children rear-facing longer.

    The government has suggested… exactly nothing. Because the AAP isn’t the government, nor part of the government. Have any laws been passed? No, because the AAP doesn’t have that power. Have any governmental bodies suggested it’d be a good thing to do? Not so much – because the AAP isn’t a governmental organization!

    The AAP makes a lot of recommendations. The AAP, for example, recommends that children be in soft sole shoes (or no shoes!) until they’re walking well. They’ve suggested that for over a decade. Has the government banned selling hard sole shoes for infants? Nope. The AAP recommends that you exclusively breastfeed for six months (or maybe four months, depending on which AAP doctors you’re talking to, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish here) and continue breastfeeding for at least a year. Has the government made formula available only by prescription? Nope. Heck, the government subsidizes formula through WIC, though it often is difficult to get breast pumps or information on breastfeeding through WIC! (Although this seems to vary by location.) The AAP’s most recent recommendation seems to be that you shouldn’t treat a fever unless your child is miserable in pain. Is the government moving to ban antipyretics over the counter? Nope.

    What the AAP says and what the government does are two very, very different things. Let’s at least get our facts straight here.

  111. Nicole March 30, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    My friend was in a car seat this week. She’s a trained CPST (person who volunteers her time to help people install car seats). She does it because she likes helping people keep their kids safe- no other reason.

    The car crash was potentially fatal, the van hit a concrete barrier and rolled, but due to the fact everyone was buckled in properly, and she by luck was in the back seat, everyone survived with relatively minor injuries (bruised lung, broken legs, etc). In a normal situation, where the car seat is usually misused and the child is graduated through the safety stages prematurely, I don’t think a family would have been as lucky. Her youngest, 2, was in a rear facing car seat. She came out of the accident without a scratch. I know an ER physician who said that some paramedics call them the “orphan seats”, because often the rear facing child is the only survivor. We would all be safer if we could face the back, and the thing is these little ones can, often with little inconvenience (they need to be in the seat anyway)

    I tend to see safety as a scale. You want to balance being reasonably safe with being able to live your life. So helmets are in, not riding bikes because of the dangers are out. Freaking out about stranger danger is out, looking both ways before you cross a four lane highway is in. Similarly with car seats best practice is in, not traveling is out. I’m sure others above me have discussed this already, but in Sweden, Norway, and several other countries they have managed to keep their kids rear facing to 4-6 years old for many years now. And aren’t these the places they leave their infants outside in a pram? Places where kids are often still allowed to venture off on their own?

    Personally, I want car seats that are as easy to use as it is to screw in a light bulb. I want rear facing car seats that are as comfortable, or more comfortable, than forward facing car seats. I want boosters that you can fit into a backpack for soccer practice, or better yet boosters that are already built into the seats. And we CAN do it. The technology is there, there are places it is used and it has been used before. It just takes some political and social will.

  112. W March 30, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    And with this post, I’m done following your blog. Car seat safety (i.e. preventing death) and free-range kids should be two completely different issues. Not only that but you’re encouraging parents who have not done all the research to have less safe kids.

  113. Larry Harrison March 30, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Uly Maybe Lenore’s post “opens herself up to remarks” or whatever, but I still found them to be quite snotty and nasty. It is THEIR RIGHT to do so, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean I agree with it, and just because I havent’ made that observation about every single forum on the entire World Wide Web doesn’t equate to hypocrisy.

    Moreover, this: it may be true that the AAP is not a government body, fine, they have no authority, BUT, it sure seems to me and a lot of others that almost anytime some think-thank, advocacy group, media story, any number of things–makes a recommendation like this, and it becomes “highly recommended” for parents to start doing things this way, and when some of them don’t, then next thing you know, a law is passed REQUIRING it, and the law should’ve never been passed to start with. Maybe not every single recommendation leads to this, but in my observation, many of them do, and none of them (almost, anyway) should have.

    My main point is this–the AAP can make this point all they want, fine by me–but the minute people start wagging their fingers in your face lecturing you for not doing it the “recommended” way, and especially once it becomes the law, then I advocate against that strongly.

    They’re MY kids, not everyone else’s, and I advocate just about anything that protects that and keeps the busy-bodies away.


  114. Uly March 30, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Larry, you’re talking about “especially once it becomes the law”, but there is NO evidence that ANY state is about to MAKE this the law.

    So don’t go arguing about things that aren’t happening. Talk about illogical!

    They’re MY kids, not everyone else’s, and I advocate just about anything that protects that and keeps the busy-bodies away.

    The AAP’s job is to share professional research. Which, because their profession is medicine, means they give health and safety recommendations. Nobody is making you follow them, but it’s beyond stupid to ask that they don’t MAKE them just because you want to make your own choices.

    The rest of us want to make our own choices too, and we want to be INFORMED when we do so.

    just because I havent’ made that observation about every single forum on the entire World Wide Web doesn’t equate to hypocrisy.

    It does when the same bad behavior on THIS forum went uncommented on by you because you agreed with it, or even participated in it.

    But how about this? Lenore is a big girl, and she can defend herself if she thinks people are being too mean.

  115. Theresa March 30, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Just to clarify.

    People keep tossing out the phrase “leading cause of death” in reference to motor vehicle accidents.

    1. All the statistics I have seen refer to ‘Unintentional accidents” as the so-called leading cause of death in children. None mention motor-vehicle accidents as being the sole type of accident, but it is a leading type of accident.

    2. The term ‘motor vehicle accident’ in these studies and tables does not differentiate from accidents where a child inside the car and where they were a pedestrian struck by a vehicle.

    This is an important topic. Safety for our children is paramount, but useless fear-induced rhetoric is not.

  116. Larry Harrison March 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Uly I don’t know how to respond to you, except to say this:

    I found the posts by, frankly, the car seat nazis, to be tasteless and lacking in any sense of decency. Whether you think I’m being hypocritical or whatever, while I defend their RIGHT to say what they want, all I am saying is I found them tasteless. I have no interest in whether or not you think I, or someone else, is being a hypocrite. I’m stating my opinion just like you do. So are you, but I disagree with them. That’s all there is to it. If you want to devote your life to reading every post and seeing how I respond to it, because it REALLY is THAT big of a deal for you to prove that I’m being a hypocrite, go ahead & waste your life if you wish–it’s your life to waste as you please, just as it’s mine to raise my kids my way.

    I disagree especially with “Lenore is a big girl and can defend herself.” I never said she wasn’t, and regardless, I felt compelled to, and so I did. Don’t like it? Fine, you don’t like, but I don’t care.

    No one, I think, is saying the AAP shouldn’t be making recommendations. What concerns us is how often-times it doesn’t stop there–someone reads it and decides that it needs to be more than a recommendation, it needs to be the law. Many of us observed this, for instance, with the drop-down crib deal. While this group or whatever–I don’t recall how it was–found that supposedly the drop-down crib was less safe than a non-drop down crib, many people here were extolling their virtues. Yet, now, you can’t buy one, and I think that’s interference from outsiders to make it that way. It’s not a big stretch to see the same thing happening here–NOT because of the AAP making a recommendation, but because certain politicians can’t seem to recognize that a recommendation is a SUGGESTION, not an order.


  117. SKL March 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Jennifer, your responses to my comments on the “facts” are completely unconvincing. All but one of the accidents I know of (and I’m 44 years old with a good memory) have been rear-enders. By your logic, that is only 8% of crashes (4% for the guy behind and 4% for the guy in front – illogical math in itself). So then you want me to believe that about 90% of all accidents are “other” front-end crashes such as head-on collisions (which are possible only in the rare situation where someone is zipping along on the wrong side of the street); people hitting trees and lamp posts; etc. OK. One, I’m not buying it. Two, even if I did buy it, I am not moved by it, because I don’t drink and drive, hence my chances of speeding down the wrong side of the road or violently assaulting a lamppost with my car are pretty much zero.

    By the way, that one accident I know of that was not a rear-ender: four adults were in the car. Only one survived. She had been taught by her dad to never wear a seatbelt, but if she saw a crash about to happen, to get down on the floor in fetal position, which she did. She was 8.5mos pregnant and did lose her baby, and was hurt badly, but now is just fine. If she’d had on a seatbelt she would have been dead. Now, I still wear my seatbelt every time, but I do get tired of hearing people talk as if seatbelts turn super-high risk into zero risk. No, there are always pros and cons. Seatbelt/carseat enthusiasts would gain more credibility by admitting that.

    And as for the knee argument – surely you know that older kids have relatively longer legs, and also that rear-facing seats are more reclined than front-facing seats. An older RF child’s knees could easily slam into their face in a head-on crash. I actually broke my nose as a kid during a tussle with my brother, in which my knee slammed into my nose.

  118. Cheryl W March 30, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    I will admit it, I kept my oldest backwards until she was 2. That was 9 years ago. The other two stayed backwards almost as long. Why? Because I had old vehicles, which were not as safe as the new ones. Also, I used to work giving out car seats. As part of my research I came across data from Sweden (I think) where it was law (in 1995 and earlier) to have kids face backwards until 3. And since the law had been implemented, not a single child in a rear facing seat had died. (I was reading this in about 1996.) Pretty easy choice when you already have a seat that will go backwards, huh?

    But, then came the mandatory booster seat until age 6 and 60 pounds (may be 8 and 80 in my current state.) 80 pounds? My 11 year old may make it, just in the last month or so. But, we don’t do booster seats for another reason – I can’t afford a new car with shoulder belts in the back. Facing backwards was easy and cheap. New car….not cheap. We do not do boosters because they all say “DO NOT USE WITH LAP BELT ONLY!” Yes, there are one or two boosters that have harness style seats for kids up to about 80lbs, but to get three of them, would cost more than I paid for my car. I keep my kids buckled with the lap belt.

    Oh, and I did try to get shoulder belts installed in my car, because in Canada, that was an option when the car was made. It was not an option in the US, and the dealership refused to install them, because it was not an option in the US, even though I could show them exactly where it was supposed to screw in.

  119. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    @Theresa: (first sentence says “Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States.” Recommendations for preventing said death are listed as follows on same page:

    Rear-facing car seats. Infants should stay in rear-facing car seats as long as possible. Ideally, until the infant reaches the upper weight and height limit for that particular seat. At minimum, until they are at least 1 year old and weigh at least 20 pounds.

    Front-facing car seats. When infants move into front-facing car seats, they should remain in those seats until they are at least 4 years old and weigh 40 pounds. However, it is safest to stay in a front-facing car seat until the height and weight limit of the seat is reached or the seat no longer fits.

    Booster seats. Once children outgrow a front-facing car seat, they should use a booster seat until they are big enough for the seat belt to fit right. Children can stop using a booster seat when they can sit with their back against the seat back while their legs bend over the end of the seat. A seat belt fits properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the middle of the child’s shoulder and chest. This typically occurs when the child is 4’9” tall and between 8 and 12 years of age.

    Hope that helps. If you get really brave, you can try doing your own WISQARS search, but be warned they get pretty hairy!

  120. SKL March 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Oh, and yes, there are lots of people who are vehement that this should be the law. These are the moms who shout that their children will rear-face as long as the largest carseat in the safest car allows it. And since they WANT to do it, everyone else should HAVE to do it. If parents cared at all for their children, there would be no argument, would there? And since so many neglectful, stupid parents won’t do this if it isn’t law, it HAS to be a law, and the sooner the better! (Preferably before anyone’s kids grow out of their soon-to-become-obsolete RF seats!)

    (I have gotten into this same discussion on the topic of kids wearing their coats while in their car seats. The other commenters determined that I “don’t care anything for my children” because I put coats on them. Um . . . if I didn’t care about them, would I bother to buy them a coat, let alone make sure they wear it? But yeah – that’s the mentality of a lot of our society.)

  121. Larry Harrison March 30, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    SKL Exactly right. There are plenty of people who hear talking about this & that who are vehement about such being the law. Car seats, for whatever reason, are a big one. I am not big on celebrity news per se, but I remember the uproar when Britney Spears once put her children in the carseat the wrong way (I don’t recall the specifics). To hear people arguing, she was practically leaving them outside in the snow naked for an entire weekend.

    My response was along the lines of “Britney Spears owes you no explanation for any of it,” the fact that she later had a psychological melt-down was, to me, beside the point.

    As I’ve stated before, unless you’re talking about extreme neglect (as in having a meth lab in your house, committing acts of incest or molestation etc), I advocate strongly on behalf of parents pretty much having total 100% authority to parent how THEY feel, end of story. Yes they should be willing to listen to others who are trying to help, especially ones in the family, but there should be no judgmental or holier-than thou type of attitude or tone with such persons. Anyone offering their advice should be doing out out of support for the family as a whole and out of love for the parents just as much as out of love for the children, and because they want to see things turn out well for all concerned–as opposed to doing what they do to be a nagging judgmental busy-body.

    No one, I think, is advocating that parents should have absolute total 100% authority, to such an extreme that they could kill their child if they became frustrated (or even seriously hurt the child), or just be out & out neglectful in a seriously irresponsible manner. But when we start nitpicking every little thing and insinuating that such ought to be law, we’ve gone WAY too far with it–and even if the AAP isn’t doing that (or able to, whatever), the response of other persons in power hearing what’s said often-times is that very sort of thing–or, at the very least, pestering you with haughty judgmental-ism. That is where I take offense, and others also–and rightly so.


  122. Cheryl W March 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    SKL, I put coats on my kids in their car seats. In Montana, with black ice, and freezing temps, if I went off the road, I didn’t want them freezing before help came. My seats, about $40 with 5 point harnesses, all had easy adjustment things right on the front bottom so I could easily make it fit. Granted, not all seats are like that, but that was one thing I did look for. I would argue for you any day!

    Honestly, my kids hate it when I make them wear their coats in the winter, but I know there is a slim possibility that the car may break down, we may slide off the road, or more likely, someone else may slide into us or whatever. I don’t want to deal with frost bite too. Because I love them.

  123. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    @SKL: Be unconvinced all you want. I’m replying with hard data and you keep coming back with anecdotes. “I know someone who” doesn’t prove anything. STATISTICALLY (as in, when scientists take facts about all the crashes and put them in columns with pretty headers and cute titles) the least likely crash is a rear-end crash. I don’t know how to say it any other way. There are plenty of front-end crashes, which are the most common. There are also lots of side-impact crashes, which are the second-most likely and also happen to be the deadliest (and statistically, rear-facing seats protect better in those crashes too!). The least likely is the rear-end crash, which also happens to be the least-likely to be serious.

    Now, does that mean that catastrophic rear-end crashes never happen? NO – in fact “I know” someone who lost her daughter in a horrific, highway speed rear-end crash. (Though for argument’s sake, the cause of death was the design of the particular car seat she was in; a car seat, I might add, you can’t even find because they don’t make them any more…thanks to people who advocated for SAFER car seats that didn’t put huge chunks of hard plastic directly in front of the child’s chest where their head could, and often DID, strike it.)

    Point 2: The seat-belt equals zero risk. I never even remotely suggested such a thing. Again, most people “know” someone who “would have died” if they’d be wearing a seat belt. Guess what? STATISTICALLY there are about 3% more people you COULD know but don’t because they were NOT wearing their seat belt. They aren’t here to advocate it, because…well, you get the point. But again, the facts aren’t on your side, and anecdotes don’t save lives.

    Not to bore you, but these recommendations came from actual, real-life, everyday, regular people situations. See, there’s a research project between State Farm and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that’s been going on for over 10 years. In a handful of states, every time someone insured by State Farm is in a crash of ANY kind, a huge list of data is gathered from that crash. Guess what the FACTS showed?
    – Rear-facing for kids up to the age of 2 is safer (including the fact that head/brain, neck, face, and LEG injuries are MORE COMMONS in FORWARD-FACING children)
    – Forward-facing kids are safest in a harnessed seat that allows the harness to be used up to 65, 70, or even 85 lbs, until the harness is outgrown.
    – After outgrowing a harnessed seat, a child needs to use a belt positioning booster seat until they pass the 5 step test

    Finally, about the knees and the face: Go look at the crash tests. Believe it or not, the dummies they use for these things are built to “perform” in a crash the same way a kid’s body does. Forward-facing: Head, legs, arms all flailing forward at tremendous speeds (so tremendous that they have to slow it WAY down so you can even see what happens). Rear-facing: the kid bounces back (along with the seat) and the knees (even when bent straight up at the face) move only a few inches up, if that. So the crash tests show what happens. Real life shows that the injuries you’re concerned about don’t happen.

  124. Ann March 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    We’re new parents in Ireland, where road safety is pretty abysmal and the attitude towards seat belts isn’t great. When we went to the parenting classes at the hospital, a guy came in to talk about car seats and how to properly install them. He told us that in the Scandinavian countries, kids rode backwards to age 4 and that it was so much safer. He told us to keep our kids backwards as long as possible, that going forwards wasn’t a milestone.

    I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Kids can fold their legs and be quite cozy. If the kid doesn’t know anything but riding backwards, it’s just how life is for them.

  125. Aimee March 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    “I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Kids can fold their legs and be quite cozy. If the kid doesn’t know anything but riding backwards, it’s just how life is for them.”

    EXACTLY, Ann.

  126. SKL March 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Cheryl, you would be surprised though, at how many moms insisted “I live in Alaska and my kids never wear coats because I love them” etc. Ugh. And some said, “you should warm up your car for 20 minutes first, have them wear the coats to the car, and take them off, and put them back on at the destination.” Yeah, but my destination is 6 minutes away, and what about the oil crisis and global warming? And then of course I was directed to a website where I could pay $35 and up for a “carseat poncho” that would remove every remaining excuse for my kids’ wearing a dang coat.

  127. Thalass March 30, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    In australia now you have to have your kid in a car seat until five or so, and a booster seat until age seven! And no children on the back of motorcycles until they’re 8 or so, i think. It’s getting to be a bit much.

    Having said that, i always thought those nets around trampolines were stupid, until my then-two year old had her first jump on one, and promptly bounced off the net. She would have come right off the side if it wasn’t there. But once she’s older the net comes off. Half the fun of jumping on a trampoline is jumping off it! haha

  128. SKL March 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Not to start another religious war, but one comment I made on a pro-extended-babyseating column (where the columnist stated she was an atheist): since there are statistics that show that children who go to church perform better on many important objective scales, including some which have safety implications, should all parents be required to take their children to church?

    Suddenly “you can’t argue with statistics” seemed a much weaker argument.

  129. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    I’m a “car seat nazi” (thanks for that, by the way, comparing those of us who are concerned about the safety of children to the criminals who annihilated millions of people). For over 12 years, I’ve been advocating for the exact same recommendations that came out from the AAP this month. You can check out my extremism at It’s very forceful and intrusive into parents’ rights. Oh. Wait.

    It’s not. It’s information. It’s there to help. It’s there because once I was just a parent who thought I was doing the best I could and someone was kind enough to show me the facts, the information, and help me understand how I could better protect my child when we’re doing the activity that’s most likely to kill or injure him (driving). It’s also there to answer the questions that people have (such as “where do their legs go”)

    Guess what you won’t find there? ANY advocacy whatsoever for “stronger” or “more” car seat laws. Because I don’t think there should be car seat laws. In fact, the only reason I DO think that car seat laws should be changed is because the law is already there, and there are a lot of parents out there that think the law in their state equals what’s safest for their kids. Frankly, I’d be a lot happier if there were no laws regarding seat belts or car seats on any books at all.

    So why are the laws there? Because John Taxpayer got tired of people deciding that it was their right to choose whether to wear a seat belt, and parents deciding it was their right to decide whether their kid should sit in a car seat, and then having to foot the bill when Jane Darwin was in a crash and spent the rest of her life on disability because she was too stupid to put her seat belt on. In addition, John taxpayer got tired of paying for funerals for babies that could have been avoided with a correctly used car seat, life-long medical bills for children that could have been healthy and whole with a correctly used car seat, and wheelchairs and diapers for teenagers who could have been happily texting while driving if they’d only been lifted up on a booster that would’ve made the seat belt fit them correctly. So we got seat belt laws, and car seat laws.

    Unfortunately, every state of the union has a law that addresses car seats and seat belts. And every state has a large population of people who think that those laws equal what’s safe. (I only have to wear a seat belt in the front seat? Well, then it must be safe to not wear one in the back.) So unless every state is going to repeal their car seat law, yes, I’d prefer they were updated to reflect what is actually safest. Not because I enjoy nosing into parent’s lives and making them do what I want. But because most people equate those laws with what’s safe.

    So, what’s your preference? Repeal the laws completely and let your taxes pay for those who “choose” to have total 100% authority to parent how THEY feel? Or amend the laws to reflect what’s safest, and live under a little more intrusion?

  130. SKL March 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    I will say that as soon as I turned my kids, my youngest became a backseat driver, for better or worse. My kids are also good about reminding adults to wear their seatbelts. They call my friend (who sometimes drives my car) out when she speeds or weaves. So I’m thinking we are all safer with my kids forward facing.

    I have to disagree with those who think kids have nothing to gain by being FF. My kids have learned a lot via observation, and we talk about everything while driving in the car (usually for well over an hour a day). If our drives were normally very short or infrequent, I might feel differently.

  131. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    SKL: “since there are statistics that show that children who go to church perform better on many important objective scales, including some which have safety implications, should all parents be required to take their children to church?”

    There’s this fun little ditty that far too few people understand: “Correlation does not equal causation.”

    In your case, just because children who go to church perform better it does not prove that church is the cause of the improved performance. It CORRELATES with it, but does not CAUSE it.

    In this case, the activities in question (seat belts, car seats, direction of the car seats, age of the child in the car seat, etc) directly impact the statistics. Children up to age 2 in rear-facing car seats are safer in rear-facing car seats because rear-facing car seats protect better. Whether the kids are riding to church or not. 🙂

  132. SKL March 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    I don’t know, Jennifer, maybe the parents who are more likely to rear-face are also more likely to install the seats correctly, to actually belt the child in at all, to drive while sober/awake, to drive at a reasonable speed, to drive cars with functioning brakes, etc. That would be correlation., not causation.

    Maybe it’s a little of both, in the case of church AND carseats.

    The other day, a blogger posted about a 6-year-old who died after being ejected in a car crash. The child was not belted in at all. The blogger insisted this child’s death was proof that the new recommendations (booster until at least 8) could have saved this child’s life. Actually the real questions to be asked have little to do with boosters. What caused the crash? Why was the child not wearing a seatbelt? Would a seatbelt have saved the child? You don’t even get to the point of whether a booster (which the state law did require, incidentally), would have made a difference.

    Oh, and that reminds me. The whole “if your child wears a lap belt or adult-sized shoulder harness, she will DIE! You must not care if your child DIES!” Gimme a break! It may not be the “most” safe choice, but the risk of death is still very low.

    I would like to know how many moderate-to-high-speed, head-on crashes have occurred with children (over age 1) in the car during a recent 12-month period. And then I want to know how may billions of dollars we spend to prevent that number of kids from the difference in injury while “properly restrained” versus injury while wearing a plain old lap belt. Seriously, I think people are being misled.

    I still like car seats for many reasons, and RF up to a point, but when BS is used to sell something, it makes me wonder why the straight story wasn’t good enough.

  133. North of 49 March 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    @Paige – trust me… I know all about car accidents and the damage they can do without killing the person. I’m lucky I can walk.

    When the “booster till 9” came in here, and yes it is a law, a lot of parents were saying “I can’t force my (4, 5, 6, 7, 8) year old back into a booster seat! Unfortunately, our youngest doesn’t really want to use a booster seat. She refuses to “sit proper” and that required the reinstall of her full sized car seat. *sigh*

  134. Crystal March 30, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Glad to see you retracted your comments re rearfacing. I’m Free Range, but I think you’re all wrong on this one, Lenore.

    Every time your child gets into a car, they have a 1 in 6,000 chance of death. Just saying.

    I really wonder if people have forgotten that kids sit cross legged all the time? It’s not stunting their growth!

    Do I think there’s a limit? YES. IN MA kids have to be in some sort of booster thing until they are EIGHT. EIGHT. Third grade. That’s too far.

  135. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    @SKL I read the blog you are referring to and I thought it was one of the worst things I’d read in a long time. Yes, the example the author used was stupid, unrelated and not even necessary. I thought that then, and I still think it now.

    The problem with your “maybe the parents who are more likely to rear-face are also more likely to install the seats correctly, to actually belt the child in at all…” argument is that the study I referenced STILL found a normal (somewhere between 95-99%) misuse rate. What does that tell me? That even an incorrectly used rear-facing seat is going to protect a child better than an incorrectly OR correctly used forward-facing seat.

    You said, “I would like to know how many moderate-to-high-speed, head-on crashes have occurred with children (over age 1) in the car during a recent 12-month period. And then I want to know how may billions of dollars we spend to prevent that number of kids from the difference in injury while “properly restrained” versus injury while wearing a plain old lap belt.” Frankly, your question confused me.

    I can tell you how many moderate-to-high-speed, head-on crashes (though I’m not sure why the head-on matters?) with children over age 1 have occurred in a semi-recent (because the data never gets released immediately) 12-month period. And I can tell you how many were injured. I can tell you how many were properly and improperly restrained. I could probably tell you how many were in car seats vs. lap belts and injured vs. not injured. But I really don’t know what you mean by “how many billions of dollars we spend to prevent that number of kids from injury” though. Are you asking how much parents spend on car seats? Are you asking me how much is spent between car seats and enforcing state regulations and education campaigns? And then somehow divine what the difference is in cost between properly restrained injuries and lap belt injuries? I’d be happy to get the facts you’re interested in, but I’ll need to you clear up what it is you’re looking for.

    I also don’t understand your comment “it makes me wonder why the straight story wasn’t good enough.” Please, show me where the BS is? I’ve not posted a single thing that is not a proven fact. None of the recommendations released are based on “BS”. I really don’t understand your comment at all.

  136. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    @Crystal – kids SHOULD be in a booster (which correctly positions the lap and shoulder belts over the strong bones of the body instead of the soft tissues and organ of the abdomen) until they pass the 5-Step Test. Most kids don’t until they are 10-12 years old.

    Instead of seeing it as a horrible “the state is forcing me to put my 8 year old in a baby seat” consider it this way. I’m providing the tool my child needs to ensure a good seat belt fit, until they are big enough to fit the belt. Kind of like providing shoes that fit, clothes that fit, etc.

  137. Jennifer March 30, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    @SKL – how’s this for starters?
    According to PCPS (the study I referenced in an earlier post): “Children ages 2 to 6 placed in child restraints were 28 percent less likely to be killed in a crash than children restrained in seat belts alone. (Archives of Pediatric Medicine, June 2006.)”

  138. SKL March 30, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    Jennifer, the BS I’m talking about is the implication that my kid has a significant risk of dying if I have her FF versus RF at any given age (after 12 mos). Assuming that I’ve installed her car seat correctly and restrained her in it correctly.

    What I’m saying is, if the risk is .0000X%, then why aren’t we telling parents this?

    Why do we have so many people thinking they should criticize, reprimand, and even report other parents to the police when they see, e.g., a chest clip a little too low?

    On an adoption forum, a parent asked the question: “I saw Super Foster Mom drop off the kids at elementary school in a different car than usual (maybe hers was in the shop). The school kids were not in car seats or boosters. She’s a really wonderful foster mom, but should I report her to the police?” Sure, lady, disrupt all these poor kids’ lives AGAIN over something that didn’t hurt anyone! This is what happens when people are convinced that a child is going to die during every car ride if not restrained per the current recommendations. (Many of the people on the forum said yes, most definitely report her! Luckily the law allowed what she did where temporarily using a different car.)

    I also think the oft-repeated “only 4% of crashes involve rear impact” (the kind where FF is safer) is complete BS. It just doesn’t stand any test of credibility and I am shocked that people take it at face value.

    And then, we have the oft-repeated statistic that the biggest cause of death in kids ages x to y is car accidents. I looked deeper into that number and found many interesting things. First, that isn’t true at all for ages 1-4! So it’s basically a lie when used to push extended RF. Second, demographics such as income and geography play a big role, which suggests that fatal accidents are far from random.

    All of this calls for more specific statistics. Don’t tell me how dangerous it is to be a generic kid in or around a car. Don’t tell me that if I have a head-on crash with some crazy person (like that happens every day) it’s gonna be ugly. Tell me how many lives are actually going to be saved by rear-facing kids to age 2, 3, 4, etc. Versus correctly using front-facing seats at the same ages.

    And the cost question was really to point out that we are spending an awful lot of money already to prevent a small number of deaths, and I’m not even complaining about that. Now we’re asking many parents to buy additional seats and/or bigger seats, and some will in fact buy bigger cars to accommodate them. And they’ll buy more stuff to keep their RF kids happy longer. And then there is the money that goes into promoting all of these bigger seats for bigger kids. And yes, there is an opportunity cost to preventing the kids from seeing where they are going / what their parents are seeing until they are school-age. I think people ought to have all this information so they can decide how reasonable it would be to make these recommendations into laws (as is likely eventually).

  139. survivinginsweden March 30, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    I have to say that I was pretty surprised by the large-scale outrage that people seem to have launched at the new recommendations for RF until 2 mostly because of this blog.

    As I live in Sweden, my kid will be RF until at least 4 in his specially designed car seat.

    But the thing I don’t get is here is something parents can REALLY do to help their kids safety. In Sweden in 2009 NO children in a rearfacing car seat died in traffic accidents.

    But safety-crazy americans tend to find it ‘outrageous.’

    I love your blog because I am a firm believer that there aren’t people camped out, plotting to steal my child. I hope that in our society can continue to make room to allow young children to participate in our society and not that we have to protect them from our society.

    But a RF car seat is an effort where we can legitimately protect them from real danger – not abstract ones. And to be honest, since it is the cultural norm here I’ve never seen DS look askance at the idea nor have I questioned it. Where we live the recommendation is for kids up to 4.

    I consider it my responsibility to take precautions in traffic for my children until they are old enough to do so themselves – which I think would be when they are a bit older than four.

    I am glad you took up the issue though I love FRK

  140. Elizabeth March 30, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

    I’m so glad you’ve changed your mind on this one. This is something that takes *so little effort* and takes *so little freedom* (they’re strapped in anyway!!!) and makes *such a huge difference* that it really is worth it.

    I know that there is a percentage of kids, probably one in twenty from what I hear on the playground, that freak out rear facing, and not only because of the type of car-seat.

    My own kids are rear facing and they just sit cross-legged.

    “Now we’re asking many parents to buy additional seats and/or bigger seats, and some will in fact buy bigger cars to accommodate them. And they’ll buy more stuff to keep their RF kids happy longer. ”

    They fit in a Toyota Corolla just fine, fyi, and my toddler and pre-schooler are cool with books (whereas the neighbor’s kids, front facing in boosters “couldn’t” manage the 45 minute ride to the next town without their DVD players… hm.)

    HOW does facing the other direction require more entertainment? I have faced both ways on a train with no problems whatsoever.

  141. Nicolas March 30, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    Like so many other laws, those mandating child car seats for kids older than two are unsupported by science.

    According to the economists who write Freakonomics, studies of the effectiveness of child seats have compared them not to seat belts, but to no restraint at all. The authors reported that “among children 2 and older, the death rate is no lower for those traveling in any kind of car seat than for those wearing seat belts.” Yet kids are tortured by these monstrosities for years, and parents are compelled to spend billions on this scam.

    The Seat-Belt Solution

  142. Larry Harrison March 30, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

    So, what’s your preference? Repeal the
    laws completely and let your taxes pay for
    those who “choose” to have total 100%
    authority to parent how THEY feel? Or
    amend the laws to reflect what’s safest,
    and live under a little more intrusion?..

    #1, all the way. This whole “my taxes or insurance premiums pay for much of this sort of thing therefore it’s my business what you’re doing” is horse manure. That’s the sort of thing I look for the governments of Nortb Korea or China to impliment, not the US.

    Advocate all you want, that’s fine–but the minute you start intruding into my parenting affairs under ANY premise, even that one, expect that I’m going to do just about anything to keep your Pinnochio-sized nose out of MY life. And make no mistake, even though I have kids, it’s still MY life & my wife’s. Just because we spread our legs & bore fruit didn’t equate to us consenting to 24 hour surveillance of our private affairs. Those who try to do so will meet with very strong forces to boot your ass into the street–and that’s if I’m in a GOOD mood.


  143. Robin March 30, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Wow, I actually agree with Larry! At what point is safe safe enough? For those of you who keep saying they are only recommendations, look at where we are with car seat laws. We went from “just” a car seat, to “just” a rear-facing, to “just” booster seats until age 8. Where does the “just” end?

    The only statistics I could find were these:
    5.5 million accidents per year or 15,068 per day. Of those, 61% were single car crashes. This resulted in the deaths of 4 children per day under the age of 14. We don’t know how many of them were in rear-facing seats.

    If my kids were still little I don’t know if those statistics would warrant keeping my child backwards for more than a year. Do we know how many kids are killed each year while playing outside?

    Our tax and insurance dollars pay for a lot of stupid things, we can’t regulate all of them, and we shouldn’t even try. Maybe we need to stop having the government pay for stuff and make it our personal responsibility again.

  144. Taylor Meacham March 30, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    This topic seems to have us all going!

    My take: Changing your mind after seeing a crash test video is probably not the best reason to change your mind on this issue. For instance, I suspect the crash would look pretty similar for adult crash-test-dummies as for children. If you are basing the conclusion on looks, then adults should be in rear facing seats, something folks will regularly tell you is safer.

    Right there we have an admission that something didn’t meet the cost-benefit threshold to justify adults in rear facing seats.

    As has been mentioned, kids in back seats need more entertaining. Some argue that since their children are reading books instead of playing with electronic gadgets that this is of no concern to them. What about looking outside and seeing the world around them. What about looking in their parents eyes as they talk about things of concern or interest? Looking at people when you talk matters.

    Another concern is being able to accommodate friends in the car. Does everyone need to have a spare carseat or two in case friends are coming along? If in those circumstances we wouldn’t require carseats, why isn’t that saying that we don’t value their safety? Should friends simply not be able to travel together unless their mommies plan far ahead to make sure carseats are available.

    Third, why is car accidents the leading cause of death in this age group and similar age groups? Because diseases that kill tend to do so earlier in life and later in life. So, unintentional injury deaths (even without car accidents) are bound to be the leading cause of death.

    In 2007 and 2005 at least, these CDC numbers show that 1-4 years olds were more likely to die of unintentional drowning, not MV accidents. They appear to trade off routinely for the dubious distinction.

    When the numbers seem to be in conflict (Steve Levitt’s analysis in the TED talk vs. study Jennifer cites) it’s probably a good call not to set your heart too firmly on either side of the issue.

  145. Larry Harrison March 30, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Jenifer A quick PS, as I went back & read your post more fully, and would like to clarify a few things.

    If it is true what you say, that you are NOT advocating meddling in parenting affairs, that you’re advocating the laws solely because parents tend to use that as their determination of what’s safe, then I can at least respect that you’re not advocating busy-bodyness. So my apologies for my rant in terms of it being directed at you, because apparently it doesn’t apply here–it applies in GENERAL, yes, but apparently not to your advocacy.

    That said, however, I will also say–passing a law because other parents are too ignorant to do research & do the right thing (whatever that is) by their own fruition? That’s not my fault. Don’t penalize my freedom because other parents are too lazy to read, research and learn for themselves what the best way is. It’s too bad that some parents are that blind and prone to misapplication of safety or whatever, but that’s not my fault.

    My thing is this–when deciding how to parent in whatever manner of speaking, I don’t consider what the law has to say. I read up and do my own research and then I decide what I think is best, and do it that way. If it happens to conflict with what the law says, I do it my own way ANYWAY. Yes, if the police are around or whatever, or I’m in a more “high profile” environment where lots of people can see, I may “fake it to make it,” but the second that’s over–it’s right back to doing it my way.

    Call me a scofflaw if you want, I certainly have heard the “you can’t pick and choose” argument many times. But anymore, the law, it seems, doesn’t respect the sovereignty of parental authority anymore, so I’ve pretty much lost all respect for it. (It doesn’t keep me from justifying my leaving the kids in the car briefly based at least partially on the reality that it’s legal here, if that’s inconsistent–fine, I’m inconsistent.)

    All I am saying is that parents ought to be able to parent how they please, so long as it doesn’t involve running meth labs, molestation, in-breeding etc. If that means they let their kids (ages 7 and up or so) ride in the back of an open-bed pickup truck on a 55 mph highway, or leave them in the car for short periods without them dying or being seriously discomfortable etc, or have them in the carseat frontwards, backwards, sideways, upside down, whatever–I support them (including myself) having that right in the most absolute form.


  146. maggie March 30, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    Here, here Larry! Truer words have never been spoken!

  147. Starr March 30, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    Glad you changed your tune.

    BTW I think the whole “We do what works for our family” argument is ridiculous. Humans are notoriously bad at gauging risk, and saying it’s okay because you survived while riding on top of your dad’s car or jumping up and down in the back seat is silly. This is one arena where safety should trump convenience hands down. Mainly because it is actually proven that rear facing is safer. Not because of overblown fears (like with child molesting).

  148. Dave March 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    Relatively safe not perfectly safe. Chance is a part of life. Accidents happen and should be expected. Precautions should be taken but we have gone way to far. Within reason risk is acutally a good thing. If one never takes chances one never grows. New ideas are born out of chance. Let’s keep life in life. No chance no challenge no fun.

  149. Kevin March 30, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    To echo many that came before, car safety trumps nearly all. Even a cursory review of the data shows that until age 25, death by auto crash is a child’s biggest threat.

    Seat belts have been and continue to be the best performing occupant protection device ever introduced. Unfortunately we need laws to instruct and require adults on how to protect their children in vehicles because amazingly it is not common sense.

    Make your occupants buckle-up before you start the car, put the phone away, and watch out for the less careful.

  150. Penny March 30, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    They are now saying that kids should be kept in the backseat until they are 13. My problem with that is that they usually base that on height. My 9-year-old daughter is only slightly shorter than my mother, and my mother drives! My DD will certainly surpass her in the next year or so, so is there some other reason why they are saying keep all kids under 13 in the back? These regulations don’t seem to make sense or use logic.

  151. SKL March 30, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    I’m pretty sure that the risk of a kid developing health problems from a poor diet is higher than his getting seriously injured from sitting in a properly-installed front-facing seat after age 1. But if the state governments started making laws requiring you to feed your kids apples and carrots whether they screamed or puked not, would you all be so supportive of it? I agree it’s “easy” to RF a child to age 2 if she’s happy and comfortable that way. But when the law starts saying you have to do something that you and your child hate, they had better be able to prove it will save a LOT of lives. So far I don’t see enough proof to justify a law.

    Just inform the parents objectively, and you might be surprised at how many of them do the smart thing!

    I set a goal to keep my kids RF to 2.5 because I heard something about RF years ago and applied my own IQ and logic to it. This was before all the “you don’t care for your child” BS, which I find offensive beyond measure. My blood is boiling, actually.

  152. Dee March 30, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    “My 9-year-old daughter is only slightly shorter than my mother, and my mother drives!”

    Your mother also has the skeletal structure of an adult female, not the skeletal structure of a 9-year-old girl who has not gone through puberty yet.

    The height and weight recommendations are kind of gross recommendations, since the bodily changes (such as the maturation of the hip bones/structure) which help seatbelts sit in a way to protect rather than damage internal organs in accident occur around puberty. Most 12 and 13-year-olds who are approaching the height and weight recommendations are also approaching a more mature skeletal structure. That’s partly what the 5-step test is about: determining that the kid’s skeletal structure is starting to resemble that of an adult human.

  153. BMS March 30, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    I personally don’t give a fig how long you keep your kids rear facing.

    But I get ever so tired of the “You’re a bad mom if you are not exactly as paranoid as me” syndrome.

    When my kids were in car seats, I followed the guidelines at the time, read the directions, installed them properly (both the seats and the kids), and called it done. But there was a mom in a playgroup I was in for whom anything less than a professional installation by some certified authority was tantamount to child abuse. She ended up leaving a store without something she needed once because to fit it in the car she would have had to move her child’s car seat. She was convinced that there was no way an ordinary human like herself could possibly install a car seat correctly, and if it wasn’t exactly correct, her kid was doomed. She bought car seats for both of her cars (large, expensive SUVs, of course, because they are the only cars safe enough for children, don’t you know), and refused to ever remove them, whatever the situation. To me, that’s insane. But she totally bought into the ‘you can only keep your child safe with lots and lots of expensive professional help and safety devices’ mentality. She also hired someone to baby proof her house, read every single parenting magazine she could get her hands on, etc. She was a miserable person – constantly worried, terrified for her children. Her kids picked up on it – you never saw a whinier, clingier, more fearful pair of kids. I am sure her kids were marginally safer in the event of a car crash than my kids. But at what cost?

  154. Jenn March 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    What concerns me about this new suggestion to leave children rearfacing until age 2 is that many parents will use the infant portable seats when their child has outgrown it. Most of those portable seats (which are a godsend for sleeping babies that need to be carted around when older siblings are being dropped off and picked up) are good for about 20-22 pounds and 26 inches. My son outgrew his at 5 months and my dauaghter at 7 months but I would see parents with children who were 12 months plus and walking. The danger with the portable seats is that they aer designed, on impact to move towards the backseat, absorbing impact. With taller babies (or too big toddlers), not only do the legs get crushed but the neck is not properly supported because it is not cradled in the seat. I hope there is more information about this suggestion and reminders to parents to ensure that their seat is designed for their child’s height/weight and is used properly.

  155. Larry Harrison March 30, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    If I’m over-chiming in, forgive me, I know others have a right to contribute as much as me.

    To echo Robin (link–that is exactly right. Too often, what starts out as a “recommendation” ends up becoming law, and often times the entire thing is specious. Give it a little time, and next thing you know, they’ll MANDATE rear-facing seats until you’re 14. Good grief. And yes, just because something costs in ways that include taxes & insurance premiums doesn’t mean it should be everyone’s business. If that’s the way it works, the system shouldn’t be accommodated, but broken–and smashed to bits emphatically.

    As Maggie said here, it’s yet another detriment to our freedom to parent as we CHOOSE, and yes-it is a choice, and should be. This is NOT like “choosing” whether or not to leave them outdoors for 5 hours naked in a snowstorm. This is not like “choosing” whether or not they should report Uncle Mark for molesting them. I don’t think anyone, not even me, is arguing that extremes like that should STILL be a parent’s prerogative.

    Don’t forget–even as Lenore supposedly reversed her position, she also has clarified that even the “wrong” way, kids in car seats are still very darn safe. We’re not talking a quantum leap here, we’re merely taking a very safe practice & arguably making it safer still.

    But, again, at what cost, with regards to the parent’s convenience (which STILL matters, even here), the child being able to see their parents and make facial contact with them (especially the other parent not driving), and for parents who are doing it the “wrong” way to be scorned as if they’re smokers on an airplane–all for a relatively small incremental amount of safety vs a massive quantum leap.

    Like I said, in our case, we found it much easier to buckle our boy in front-facing as he grow tall enough that his legs were cramped & he was uncomfortable. At least he was still in a car seat, it’s not like he was back there loose & flopping all over the place. To me, that is “good enough,” especially if it gains you a huge amount of convenience & the safety compromised is rather nil.

    I mean, it really doesn’t end. Besides front-facing vs rear-facing etc, there’s also nagging legalisms over what sort of harness. You know what sort of harness I sought out? Whichever one was EASIEST to buckle & unbuckle. When I saw a seat for sale & the person was extolling the virtues of how much safer that design was, but I tried it out & found working with it to be like wrestling a fat pig, I said “no thanks, it’s too hard to deal with.” Often-times the person selling it would say “but it’s safer,” and my reply–“that isn’t all that matters, having to wrestle with that annoying octopus of a car seat everyday–I’d end up not using it at all, I’ll take the one that’s easiest to buckle.”

    Yet, you will STILL be on the receiving end of scorn, because you used the one that was easier to buckle. Do you REALLY expect me to believe the one that’s easiest to buckle is really that less safe, and that I’m a horrible parent for caring about convenience? Not to be crass, but those of you going ” yes, of course”–go suck on a lollipop and leave me alone!

    Rhianna said here that “not doing what is right because I was told to do it, that attitude annoys the heck out of me” (that’s a paraphrase, not an exact quote)–sorry sweetie, but that’s human nature, and may it ever be so. I know of people who won’t wear a seat belt–as adults–because they get sick & tired of all of those “Click It Or Ticket” campaigns where the government is making it their business to ORDER you to wear a seat belt. Some may say that’s cutting off your nose to spite your face, but my reply–the damn law shouldn’t exist in the first place. It’s not their business to ORDER someone to wear a seat belt–or for someone to HAVE to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, any of it. The law has no business meddling in these matters, and people are right to revolt against it.

    End of rant–for now.

  156. Jenn March 30, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Oh and I was going to say, many provinces/states have laws about booster seat usage, giving a specific age (age 8), height (4’9″) and weight (80 pounds). Many people comment that there are adults that don’t meet these height and weight requirements and they are driving. The reason for the age is that it was realistically impossible for police officers to enforce height and weight (couldn’t carry a scale and measuring stick) but they can ask if a child is 8 years old and ask for ID. Many insurance companies also state in their policies that smaller adults who are driving need to have proper adjustments made to their vehicles so that they are safe. It may be excessive but I wouldn’t want to be in an accident and find out that I wasn’t covered (and now have major medical bills) because I didn’t follow the requirements of my policy. Car safety is pretty important to me, regardless of the age of the passengers/drivers. I’ve been in accidents and have had family members die in accidents. I may be a little neurotic about this but it is one area there is a real danger.

  157. Steph March 30, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

    I personally don’t get why people think it’s so unimaginable to keep a kid rear-facing until toddlerhood. Here are some photos of kids who look perfectly comfortable rear facing:

    My son is 23 months and still rear facing, until he outgrows his seat’s limitations. That will probably not be for awhile, since he’s a small guy. We drive a small Saturn, and the big Britax fits fine in it. If it didn’t, I’m sure we could find another seat that fit. As for him getting bored, we give him a few toys, and we have a mirror that allows us to see him. He used to freak out in the car when he was little, but that was when he was small. He outgrew it.

    And for those who say, “I didn’t have a car seat/booster seat, and I turned out fine” were you in a major car accident without said booster and turned out fine? Because that argument makes no sense at all if you weren’t.

    Anyway, people give me weird looks all the time on the extended rear facing thing, and there’s all these articles out there about how these new regulations are ridiculous, would NEVER work, they can’t understand it, etc., etc. But in my experience, it is so not a big deal at all.

  158. Dee March 30, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    In the past 13 years, I’ve been in three car accidents which totaled the car I was riding in. Two times, I was a passenger, once I was a driver. The first accident, we were t-boned by a driver running a red. The second accident, my small car was side-swiped by a heavy van and thrown into/onto the center barrier. The third accident, we hit a stalled car in the roadway around a blind corner (and then a second car while the driver was trying to regain control).

    In all those accidents, everyone who was properly restrained suffered very minor injuries or no injury at all.

    When I was a child, seatbelt laws didn’t exist or simply weren’t considered very important. In a carpool one day, my friend’s mom stuffed more kids than seatbelts into her car because they were only going a mile on residential streets. They were side-swiped by a police car and spun. Every kid, whether in lap belt or no seatbelt was injured to some degree. One of the kids in the lap belt had injured internal organs (spleen, I think) and required surgery, there were multiple broken bones among the kids not in belts. The car itself was barely damaged.

    What study has shown us over the year is that no seatbelts is bad for everyone, since the human body is a sack of skin and bones never designed to be hurtling at speeds faster than we can move on our own two legs. Lap belts were a step up in safety (in that they kept people’s bags of skin and bones from continuing to travel when the car abruptly stopped and smacking into things at high rates of speed) but they were also bad for adults and children in different ways. For adults, they could cause the spine to break when restraining. For children with less mature hip bones, they could damage the internal organs underneath the belt path AND the spine.

    So, we moved to shoulder+lap belts, another step up in safety. The shoulder belt holds back the shoulder of an adult who properly fits into it, preventing the spinal injuries. Unfortunately, the step up in safety for kids here is less. First, a kid’s shoulder and an adult’s shoulder aren’t the same height and there’s a limit to the amount of adjustment you can build in. Second, kids’ hip bones are smaller and less protective of their internal organs so the “area” in which the lap belt needs to sit in order not to damage those organs is far smaller than the area in which it can sit on an adult.

    Holding back two shoulders results in even less force forward, less risk to their abdominal organs. Also, 5 point harnesses are designed (even for adults in those cases when 5 point harnesses are called for) to hold the lap portion very low across the broadest part of the pelvic structure so the majority of the lap belt sits over bone.

    Booster seats do the same. They help position the lap portion of the lap belt over bone rather than over squishy internal organs. And they position the shoulder belt over the shoulder, so that the shoulder belt doesn’t crush the throat. Until someone can sit in the belt with the lap belt over the widest/strongest part of the hip and the shoulder belt over the center of the shoulder, some sort of adjustment should be used.

    I think people count on it being common sense that if a small adult doesn’t fit correctly, they are smart enough to go and find out what options are out there for them. There are boosters out there for small adults, there are other options of adjusting the belt as well. Short adults in my family have used them for decades because they easily recognize the risks of not doing so. It’s common sense that the shoulder belt should not cross your throat/neck. I think that anyone who has been in an accident can think through the possibilities of what would occur with those forces.

    I also think it’s common sense to look at a kid in a shoulder+lap belt and just be able to see how they don’t fit properly. Tucking the shoulder portion behind the kid leaves them vulnerable to both spine injury and internal damage even in a minor accident that throws the upper portion of their body forward. The shoulder belt is important, and it’s important that it crosses the SHOULDER, not anywhere else.

  159. SKL March 30, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    The other thing that bothers me about “guidelines” and “laws” is that it doesn’t allow for significant individual differences. My 4.5-year-old is about 30 lbs and 38″ tall. Other than her size, she is physically advanced for her age. There is no reason for her to need the same “protection” as a child half her age (or more) just because she is of the same (or lighter) weight.

    The guidelines say she should be rear-facing until age 2 OR until she reaches the maximum stats for rear-facing in her seat. That would mean that in many (if not most) convertible seats, she would still need to be rear-facing, while chunkier kids half her age would not; and her younger, larger sister would not be allowed to rear-face (unless I bought a different seat). So the weight limit makes no sense, at least after a certain age.

    My concern is that some people will blindly (even sanctimoniously) apply the “guidelines” without considering whether they actually make sense for their individual child; and when the law changes, we’ll all be pressured to follow suit.

  160. SKL March 30, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    And for those who keep posting photos of happy children in rear-facing seats: I’m sure that if the other side wanted to prove a point badly enough, they could produce just as many photos of screaming / puke-covered kids in car seats. In other words, it does nothing to disprove the fact that many kids are NOT happy rear-facing.

  161. SKL March 30, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

    Dee, the info you provided is the type of info parents should be given. Not “if you care you’ll do this just because we said so.”

  162. Jenne March 31, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    I’m always suspicious of AAP guidelines since I got the one where they suggested that you ALWAYS test the temperature of ALL slides with your hand to make sure your kid can’t get burned. At that time, I could find 3 reported incidents (2 in Arizona) of such burns in PubMed, 2 of them pretty suspicious incidents.

    My big concern is the people who will force this to become the law. I knew that we were supposed to keep our kids in the rear-facing position until they were physically too big for it. But my son screamed incessantly in the car seat until he turned 1 and we turned him around, and I have to tell you, I was one distracted driver. 45 minutes like that, 2x a day on our daily commute on busy roads– I’d have been less distracted on a cell phone!

  163. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 12:35 am #

    @SKL – pleas point out which responses you’ve read on this thread that qualify as “do this because I said so.”.

  164. Jenne March 31, 2011 at 12:37 am #

    “I think people count on it being common sense that if a small adult doesn’t fit correctly, they are smart enough to go and find out what options are out there for them”

    The answer is, if the belt fits incorrectly, there are a very limited number of options.. and most of them don’t work.

    For women of a certain build/size (for me this started at size 16/18 and age 16), the *ONLY* option that is likely to work at all is a seatbelt extender.

    The truth is, the Transport safety people don’t give a flying x about adults who don’t fit the safety belts, because it would involve changing the belt design itself, instead of supporting an after-market industry. For ‘the economy’ it’s better to have 2 companies making products and requiring consumers to buy the 2nd one than one company putting more time and money into its design. So boosters for children are the ‘job-boosting’ way to regulate, rather than properly adjustable seatbelts.

  165. Dee March 31, 2011 at 12:37 am #

    “So the weight limit makes no sense, at least after a certain age.”

    The only sense the weight limit makes is that the weight limit is the max the seat has been tested to.

    These recommendations come from what is kind of a starting perspective of “we are all safer rear-facing” versus the reality that is neither practical or possible with modern car design and our culture. Once a kid is heavier than the max tested weight, there’s no guarantees on how it will behave. Will the bolts or seatbelt hold against the additional weight/odd pressures of the overweight rear-facing seat + the forces of an accident? No company is going to guarantee that past the level they’re required to test to. (In fact, some LATCH systems are not supposed to be used up to the weights some of the newer carseats go up to. Some LATCH bolts are only supposed to be used up to 40lbs, check your car manual.)

    But that is why most newer convertibles are going to/being tested to much higher weights.

    There are studies out there that even suggest that we would all be “safer” rear-facing in airplanes for many of the same reasons we are safer rear-facing in cars. (Disregarding that airplane travel is already among the absolute safest methods of travel out there and for most of us this is purely an academic question.) Most survivable airplane accidents happen on the runway/ground, while the plane is traveling forward. The physics of the forces involved mean that if they put all the seats rear-facing in a plane, it would increase your chances of survival without major injury. The flight attendant in the rear-facing jumpseat is probably in the safest seat on the plan. But define “safest” in this situation. The reality is that you’re so unlikely to be in any sort of plane accident, that it really doesn’t matter. The chances you’ll be in a car accident are a lot, lot higher.

    So read the recommendations as “your child is safest rear-facing, as long as they are within the contraints of the seat requirements and the seat is properly used”. Yes, your younger child would be safer if you got a newer seat with higher limits and rear-faced her again. But that’s your decision to weigh. If your younger child is properly restrained forward-facing, she is much more likely to survive with little injury than if she was not properly restrained forward-facing. If you got into an accident, the realistic difference might be between some injury forward-facing versus no injury rear-facing. And everyone has to make that risk analysis for their own kids/family.

    From my perspective: my kid is almost 5 and is still restrained forward-facing in a 5 point harness. The personal reasons I have for this: he is small, light and slender, and as a result, I haven’t seen a booster that will fit him properly into a full size seatbelt. Also, he is a small bundle of relentless energy, and he would probably not sit correctly (without fussing with the belt) even 50% of the time in a lap-shoulder combination. Thus, he is safer in his 5 point harness until he either reaches that mental maturity to sit properly or he outgrows the limits of the seat. If he outgrows the limits of the seat and has not reached the maturity to sit correctly in a booster, well, that will be a bridge we cross should we get to it.

  166. EricS March 31, 2011 at 12:41 am #

    First off, there are no such thing as accidents, particularly car accidents. So the term “car accident” should really be called “car collision”. There are no accidents behind the wheel, it’s driver error. Meaning people who are paying attention to everything else, EXCEPT driving and the road. Unless, while your driving, an elephant falls from the sky, lands in front of you, you swerve and oil suddenly appears on the road, and you end up sliding into another car or guardrail, all car collisions are avoidable. Technically, if everyone drove the way they are suppose to, you wouldn’t even need seat belts. Because everyone will be paying attention to everyone else, and have consideration. DMD says “car accidents are very common”. That’s because stupid, selfish and ignorant drivers are a common thing.

    We build cars, accessories, and seats because of this reason. Because there are too many drivers out there that have no regard for anyone else behind the wheel. It’s become a norm, a part of our daily lives, that instead of something being done about idiot drivers, everything else is done or made around them. That’s like putting a bandaid over a gash. You can only do so much with it. You still have to fix the main problem. Drivers themselves. I’ve seen mothers and still do the craziest things behind the wheel with their kids in the car. And these are the same mother’s who probably preach safety, safety, safety…as long as they are inconvenienced by it.

    Just like with everything else in life, too much of something is a bad thing. Everything in moderation. I agree with most of the article. Especially the last paragraph. Anyone who doesn’t think that “safety” can be over done, is delusional and obsessive. There is nothing wrong with be safe, but people need to implement logic and common sense along with it. Otherwise, it’s not about a safety issue, it’s about OCD. Like those people who obsess about cleanliness around them and on themselves. To the point that they wash their hands raw. All they are thinking of is safety from germs. But most of us know, that you can only wash your hands for so long before causing damage to yourself. That goes with anything obsessively done.

    But in regards to rear facing car seats, I don’t see anything wrong with using them. Tests have shown less stress on the child in a collision. There are no guarantees that they can’t be injured, but less is best. I think the issue the author is writing about is the obsessive nature in which people are taking this info. Also, rear facing cars seats in the back are safer than in the front. But how can you keep an eye on what your kid is doing when you can’t see them from the rear view mirror. In spending more time looking in the mirror than the road, people are more than likely going to get into a collision. The very thing we are trying to avoid. Properly used, along with proper driving habits, front facing car seats are still safe. For years the same paediatric organization has said it’s ok to turn child seats around after the age of 2. Now this same group is saying that if you really want to be safe, children should be facing the rear up to the age of 12. 12 people. Really?! We shouldn’t have be thinking about what contraptions keep our kids safe. We should think, why were these contraptions created in the first place. Whatever the cause, THAT’S what we should be fixing. Again, in this case, it’s driver error. Eliminate driver error, you eliminate the concern for car safety.

  167. Jenne March 31, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    “HOW does facing the other direction require more entertainment? ”

    Because, in most standard cars, all the child in a rear-facing (and thus more reclined) seat can see is… the back of the automobile seat. They can’t see out the window. As an adult, you don’t have that problem because you are taller.
    (Note, however, that the mirrors that hang on the back of the seat and allow you to see the child are also considered unsafe by safety experts. That means that unless you bring along another person to supervise the kid you can’t see and who can’t see anything, it’d better be a really good book or toy he’s got there, and you better hope he doesn’t drop it.)

    That doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t ride rear-facing. But it does answer why some rear-facing kids are driver distractions.

  168. SKL March 31, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    I had to buy new seats after being rear-ended when my kids were 4. I bought boosters, because it was only a matter of time before I needed to switch them out anyway. I had hoped to keep them in the 5-point harnesses until they were 5, but with all their friends being in boosters for at least the past year, there was no way I was investing in a new big baby seat.

    BTW, I was glad my kids were FF and thus safer than RF when we had our rear-end collision.

  169. Dee March 31, 2011 at 12:51 am #


    “Now this same group is saying that if you really want to be safe, children should be facing the rear up to the age of 12. 12 people. Really?! ”

    I think you need to go back and reread. The recommendations are now that children should be rear-facing until 2, in proper restraints (forward-facing 5 point harness, then high back booster, then seat booster) until the ages of 10-12 depending on weight and height (thus fit of the adult seatbelt). And that children should be in the BACK seat of the car until age 13.

    Although, that’s partly because the front passenger seat is also the “death” seat. Doesn’t matter who you are or how you’re restrained, you’re at highest risk of being injured in the front passenger seat.

  170. maggie March 31, 2011 at 12:56 am #

    SKL – “Just inform the parents objectively, and you might be surprised at how many of them do the smart thing!”

    I wouldn’t be so sure, unfortunately. Look at vaccines and what happened. I guess what the AAP needs is a celebrity to endorse this new recommendation!

  171. delurking March 31, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    Everyone, of any age or size, is better facing the back. If we valued safety above convention and the view out the front, cars would be manufactured with all seats except the driver’s facing the back.

    Obviously, the consensus of our society for adults is that the advantages of looking out the front of the car outweigh the extra danger of facing forwards. The decision about when a child should be allowed to face forward is arbitrary, there is a risk penalty at every age. In effect, through the legislative process we choose a particular average probability of death (or serious injury) which we declare to be “too high”. It is impractical to pass laws which take into account all individual features of a child, so we compromise with a law that gets all children to roughly the same risk with a simple formula (age, height, weight, whatever).

    Similar arguments apply to better seat belts. 3-point belts are always better than 2-point (lap belts), 4-point are better than 3-point, and 5-point are better than 4-point. We have decided as a society that the reduced effort required to buckle a 3-point belt is worth the increased risk over a 4-point belt. Similarly, we have decided that the ability to drive without bunching up your dress between your legs is more important than 5-point belts. I have no opinion on whether or not these decision points are reasonable, but certainly the advantages in safety with each step of increasing belt complexity are smaller.

    Personally, I would like 4/5-point belts in all seats (leave the 5th unbuckled when you have a dress on). However, it isn’t so important to me that I am willing to pay for a custom installation.

  172. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 1:05 am #

    @SKL – “The other thing that bothers me about “guidelines” and “laws” is that it doesn’t allow for significant individual differences.”

    Really? Because I’ve paid pretty close attention to the laws as they’ve been updated and I haven’t seen a single one that does not have some variation of an allowance for a child that is unable to use the required restraint due to their size, age, weight, etc. And the whole point of a “guideline” is that it is not a set-in-stone, hard-and-fast rule, but rather a general recommendation. From the AAP press release itself: “The ‘age 2’ recommendation is not a deadline, but rather a guideline to help parents decide when to make the transition,” Dr. Durbin said. “Smaller children will benefit from remaining rear-facing longer, while other children may reach the maximum height or weight before 2 years of age.

    From the same (all CAPS my emphasis): the AAP advises parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, OR UNTIL THEY REACHE THE MAXIMUM HEIGHT AND WEIGHT FOR THEIR SEAT. It also advises that MOST children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are BETWEEN 8 AND 12 YEARS OF AGE.

    Four years of age span seems pretty lax when allowing for “significant individual differences.”

  173. Nicole March 31, 2011 at 1:18 am #

    SKL- the APA guidelines are divided into two categories. One is bare minimums, that is the 2 y/o (and formerly the 1 & 20) recommendation. The other is best practice- this is the “to the limits of your convertible seat” recommendation. However, you would be hard pressed to find ANYONE in the CPS community to complain about a 4 & 30 lb child in a forward facing car seat. The consensus is that it is safer for her to be rear facing, but forward facing at 4 years old is more than reasonable.

    If you guys want something to get outraged about, let’s talk about seat belts on school buses. School buses are more or less one of the safest modes of transport, without seat belts. Lap belts may actually decrease safety (although they are needed for special needs kids and small children/toddlers, to install safety seats). But this fact does not prevent legislatures from passing laws requiring belts.

  174. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 1:44 am #

    @SKL – You’ve now suggested that rear-end crashes comprising only 4% of all crashes is “complete BS” that you refuse to believe. I am willing to “mea culpa” to this, given the following statistics, with the caveat that rear-end crashes are STILL the MINORITY and the LEAST LIKELY over ALL OTHER TYPES COMBINED. It’s the 12th page, though the page number at the bottom is 8. VERY CLEARLY SHOWS that in 100% of crashes involving children, only a total of 24 to 24.6% of those crashes were rear-impact.

    As for your claim: “My concern is that some people will blindly (even sanctimoniously) apply the “guidelines” without considering whether they actually make sense for their individual child”

    I just wanted to understand. Are you suggesting that people will blindly rear-face their children whether they fit at age 2 or not?

  175. Elissa March 31, 2011 at 1:44 am #

    In response to Lenore’s update :

    Should we require videocameras on all rear bumpers? Yes, IF due to the design of the car’s body, a standard rear view mirror doesn’t provide enough rear visibility.

    Should we redesign the hotdog? No. You can cut it up if you find the sausage shape threatening.

    Should we get rid of trampolines? No, but perhaps they can be redesigned to be safer. As a klutzy adult who has gotten her leg stuck in the springs, and accidentally launched herself off a trampoline – I think the pads and nets are a good start.

    Does it ever make sense not to embrace new safety notions? Yes, but like any new idea or notion, they should be evaluated individually to see if they make sense, as many times there was a valid reason someone came up with it.

    However, I don’t think safety standard should be something required by law, if it is a choice that a person can make for themselves, as opposed to something that I can’t control (like lead paint in kids toys – that should be (and is) illegal because there isn’t anything I can do about it). Like helmet laws and seat belt laws. If you want to ride around without those, more power to you. Natural selection, I say. Child seats should be required by law because there are some awful parents out there who wouldn’t bother with them anyways…and a child can’t really make the choice to strap themselves in.

  176. Dee March 31, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    “100% of crashes involving children, only a total of 24 to 24.6% of those crashes were rear-impact. ”

    There’s also the fact that the forces involved in rear-impact are often simply different from those involved in front or side impact.

    Front impact often results in an abrupt stop of the car (resulting in our body’s inertia continuing forward) or the car’s forward momentum being forced off to one side or another (resulting in the car spinning or running off the road while the body’s inertia is still trying to move us in another direction).

    Rear impact often add to the momentum of the car, pushing it forward in the direction it was/our bodies were already going or pushing us forward from a stopped position. Should rear impact then result in front impact (we run into something), the front impact forces come into play.

  177. Dee March 31, 2011 at 1:59 am #

    (Add to above: and the risk of injury to the body grows as due to the change in inertia required. There is most risk of injury when we are moving in one direction at some speed and forced to move in another/stopped abruptly, slightly less when stopped and then forced into movement, and less when moving and forced to continue moving in the same direction. Isn’t there some physics calculation out there that represents this?)

  178. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    @SKL – A little more info for you. From this document (it’s page 95, but the 111th page). There is a figure on that page that demonstrates fatalaties per thousand and injuries per thousand for each type of collision. I’ve also pulled the chart into two pictures, which you can see here:

    As you can see, fatalities for rear-impact crashes are very few. Injuries are higher, but still lower than the majority of crash types.

  179. SKL March 31, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    Jennifer, perhaps I should have said that they don’t intelligently allow for individual differences. The fact is that a chubby 2-year-old is less safe in a forward-facing seat than a slim 2- OR 3-year-old, all other things remaining equal. Yet the guidelines would keep the slim 2- AND 3-year-olds rear-facing while having the chubby 2-year-old turn around. And the same argument applies to booster seats where weight is a cutoff (as is the case in some states).

    As for several of the other comments in reaction to mine – I think it’s right for parents to question recommendations, regardless of who issues them. To the vaccine comment – I don’t believe the aggressive vaccine recommendations are best for our kids. I believe in vaccinating up to a point, decided by the parent for each individual child, at which the parent believes the benefits outweigh the risks. I don’t believe in “back-to-sleep” for the majority of healthy babies, and if I had time for it, I could list plenty of scientific reasons why. I don’t think there is anything wrong with properly-assembled drop-side cribs and I’d rather my kids eat dirt than wash their hands 20 times a day.

    As for car seats, as seen above, you partially proved my point on my mule-headedness regarding the 4% rear collision figure and the weight thresholds; and I’ve seen documentation debunking other figures that are stated as “FACTS” in the carseat debate. Still, I believe that for a child whose behavior does not create a safety hazard, RF is usually safer on balance; but beyond 1 or 2, only marginally so (given that the vast majority of kids will never be in a catastrophic accident, thank God). I believe the “cons” outweigh the “pros” at some point for every safety measure, and the parents have a right to decide where that point is, given honest, objective information.

    Someone above used the same argument, but from the opposite side of the field. “I’m afraid that if the law stays where it is, people will wrongly believe that the current law reflects maximum safety.” In other words, yes, that some parents will blindly do what someone told them is safe because they are conditioned to just obey the “experts” without question. I say, question everything. Maybe you’ll agree, but you’ll know why you agree.

  180. Marty March 31, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    I’ve been a medic for 22 years and had to sit through an 8 hour car seat installation class. The propaganda is horrible “92% of all car seats are installed incorrectly” and other bogus statistics… After 15,000 911 calls, I’m confident that car seats are effective, but don’t sweat it if it’s not installed ‘perfectly’. I don’t think normal sized 7 year olds need boosters, either. I’ve seen people in screaming matches over this stuff. Seat belt/car seat nazis are more annoying than smoking nazis.

  181. Dragonwolf March 31, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    Isn’t there some physics calculation out there that represents this?

    Yep, there is. I don’t remember the exact equation, but basically, the force the external object (in this case, another car, or a tree) has on the viewer is relative to the speed the viewer is going.

    Therefore, a car going 30mph hits a stationery tree, the force of the impact is 30mph (the “control” in the experiment); two cars colliding head-on, each going 30mph results in 60mph effective speed (equivalent to the control going 60mph); and two cars colliding while going the same direction, one at 30mph, one at 45mph, is 15mph (equivalent to the control going 15mph).

    There’s also forces at play with regard to how fast the stop happens. In the case of the tree or head-on collision, the force is pretty close to instance (assuming a reasonably large tree), which puts a huge amount of force on the people in the car (to the tune of several times the force of gravity), while rear-ending another car (unless the victim car is significantly larger), results in a longer stop time, because the car moves, and therefore less force on the bodies, and crashing into brush or a lightly-packed snow drift results in the least amount of force, because it has the longest stopping time.

  182. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    @Maggie (you wrote: SKL – “Just inform the parents objectively, and you might be surprised at how many of them do the smart thing!”
    I wouldn’t be so sure, unfortunately. Look at vaccines and what happened. I guess what the AAP needs is a celebrity to endorse this new recommendation! )

    I’m probably opening up a huge can of worms here, but, what happened with vaccines?

  183. Lucy March 31, 2011 at 2:18 am #

    The majority of car collisions are REAR IMPACT. 1/3 of all US collisions are rear end collisions,,
    25% in Australia,

    So if you are the driver that hits the car in front of you, a rear facing seat might be best. BUT, if you are the person in the car that gets hit, well, suddenly the statistics get a lot less easy to find. But take a look at this video from a rear-impact crash test.

    Look at the way that dummy and the seat went backward, and imagine if the dummy had been facing the rear.

    As someone else mentioned, the parent with kids in the car is more likely to be the one who gets hit.

    I’ve only had 2 relatives die in auto accidents, both young kids, under two. One, many years ago, not in a car seat. Two, in a rear facing car seat, in a rear impact accident. Nobody else in the car died, though there were some other non-life threatening injuries.

    Letting dramatic videos create policy (and hysterics) is completely counter to rationale thinking.

  184. BMS March 31, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    SKL, I agree.

    I’m not saying blatantly flaunt the law, or carelessly disregard your child’s safety. But I reserve the right as a parent to question things. I’m all about vaccinating on schedule. Heck my kids came extra vaccinated – courtesy of being born in a third world country where stuff like TB is rampant. But when the school psychologist says my son has an ‘executive funciton disorder’, well, I read the symptoms, and they don’t sound like my kid. So I question. I believe in all but the very worst car crashes, my kids’ current arrangments (boosters with seatbelts) will be fine. In the very worst car crash, we’re all toast – we’re in a Geo Tracker convertable. If a truck hits us, no car seat in the world will protect us. This doesn’t make me gasp “We’re doooomed!” and run out to buy a hummer. It makes me drive defensively and keep an eye out for other yahoos.

  185. SKL March 31, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    Jennifer, interesting study that you linked. I note that they were studying injured children in crashes, so the data for kids who were NOT injured in a rear-impact accident is probably not included. Could be the stats show lower rear-impact crashes due to the fact that kids who were FF (i.e., most kids over 1) were less likely to be injured in that kind of accident.

  186. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    @Taylor Meachum and @Marlene – the Freakonomics/Stephen Levitt article and information in the book on car seats has been thoroughly and completely debunked. Numerous times. provides a good start.

  187. Dee March 31, 2011 at 2:23 am #


    Thank you, a much better and more understandable explanation than I could have possibly ever come up with. 😉 I recall some science teacher during my educational years did one of those “real life” tutorials where you calculated the forces on the body over some gigantic list of car collision possibilities. No matter how you cut it, the greatest force on the body thus greatest risk of injury generally resulted from two cars colliding head-on while both were moving, then a car colliding head-on with a stationary object , then various odd side impact collisions, then rear collisions. But I figured if I tracked down and ran down the math (the way I best think about it), I’d lose everyone here along the way 😉

  188. SKL March 31, 2011 at 2:29 am #

    BTW, in my 20s, I WAS hit by a truck (a semi jackknifing on freeway ice). It was a rear-impact SLAM. My car was totaled and thrown into a ditch. I had on my seatbelt and was sore for a week. If I’d had RF kids in the car, I don’t know that they would have been safe. It is a scary thought, but I know that was just a freak accident and I’m not about to change everything I do over worry that it could happen again. That said, you can see why I am not convinced that my greatest fear should be a head-on crash, which has never occurred in my presence and is almost impossible on a freeway.

  189. SKL March 31, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    Oh and also BTW, when I was rear-ended with my kids in the car, I was stopped at a red light (with my foot on the break). So the “physics” analysis would be the same as if someone had hit me head-on while I was stopped. Don’t always assume that the front car is moving when hit. Most likely the driver behind made that assumption too and it was wrong – hence, the accident.

  190. Nicole March 31, 2011 at 2:50 am #

    The majority of MAJOR car crashes- like the ones that can kill you, are frontal and side impact. Rear impact crashes make up a substantial portion of MINOR car crashes. Fender benders and the like.

    Every rear ender is also a frontal crash. Rear impacts almost always involve either low speed and a fixed object (backing into something), or two vehicles going at similar speeds (thus the crash forces are lessened). They are minor, comparatively. Of course there are always exceptions to that, but percentage wise, you’re better off planning on being in a frontal or side impact.

  191. Matt L. March 31, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    Good point on the RF/Rear end accidents. However, the way a child sits (upright) front-facing versus (At an incline) in a RF. Changes the physics. The head is pushed more toward the shoulders in the RF seat while when sitting upright the head is thrust directly forward from the body, way outside of alignment.

    In a head-on collision a larger amount of energy is transferred directly into the seat but it is not a 1:1 change by turning it around.

  192. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 3:04 am #

    @ Lucy – You said “The majority of car collisions are REAR IMPACT. 1/3 of all US collisions are rear end collisions,

    How do you get a MAJORITY from “almost 1/3”? A majority would be more than 50%, and the article you linked says that “more than 6 million crashes occurred on U.S. highways, killing over 41,000 people and injuring nearly 3.4 million others. Rear-end collisions accounted for almost one-third of these crashes1 (1.848 million) and 11.8 percent of multivehicle fatal crashes (1,923)”

  193. SKL March 31, 2011 at 3:14 am #

    Now you see why I was so offended by the “only 4%” “FACT”? And yet some of you wrote me off as just stubborn and stupid.

    Since most of us sit forward-facing in a car, that is probably a big reason why rear-end crashes cause relatively few injuries. That’s great, but don’t take the resulting statistics and say they mean that all the injuries that did happen prove that FF is patently unsafe!

  194. EricS March 31, 2011 at 3:30 am #

    @ Dee: That wasn’t in the article, it’s part of another article I read. That’s what research is, you don’t base your opinion on views based on one thing you’ve read. You base it on several things you’ve read based on the subject.

    The point I was trying to make, is that the same people who suggested this new standard, are the same ones who said it was ok for kids (3 and older) to be facing forward. Perhaps it’s the classic case of “different strokes for different folks”. Those who have been, or know of people who have been in collisions involving children and front or rear facing situations, will tend to be more overly cautious than those who have never been in any collisions. Again, nothing wrong with following the guidelines. But at a certain age, these guidelines are more precautionary or “just in case”. Much like the “what if” mentality of most heli-parents. It’s THIS issue that I have my reservations towards. Do you really expect a 12 year old (one year shy of being a teenager) to be sitting on a booster seat, or face the rear while they are sitting? These days, kids tend to grow bigger and faster than of the yester-years. There’s comes to a point, where these guidelines are just guidelines. And it’s up to common sense to make smart decisions. God forbid people make this such a huge issue that it actually becomes law. That would open up other issues that generally just needs common sense to figure out, to something that HAS to be done. Another sign of a paranoid stricken society.

    Hell, from the sounds of it, rear facing is the best way to sit, period. Would you sit rear facing in the backseat (or the front seat for that matter) of another person’s car? Even if it were made possible for adults to sit like that, I seriously doubt it. And if that were made a guideline, would you follow it? Again, I seriously doubt it. Which ties in again to the classic case of parents over protecting their children more for the parents’ benefit than the children. My nephew was rear facing until the age of 3. He’s turning 5 in a few months, and has been sitting front facing since. Nothing has happened to him in the last 2 years. For one, my sister and brother-in-law are good drivers. When they are behind the wheel the only thing on their mind is driving, and the only thing their eyes are focused on is the road and what other drivers are doing. When you pay attention, you will be able to see any potential problems before they happen, and therefore can adjust to avoid. ie. slow down, change lanes, sometimes even drive faster to get in front of a potential situation so that if it happens it happens behind you.

    Check this link out of stats. Most collisions are rear. Meaning someone wasn’t paying attention and hit someone else from behind. Same can be said for the next highest type of crash, the front end. The only thing that I haven’t been able to find is of all the collision reports across the country in one year, how many have been fatal to children facing rear and facing front. And of those fatalities, how many of it contributed to improper use of restraints. Many of the things I’ve read indicated that improper use of constraint (front or rear facing), was the cause of a majority of the injuries and death. Also check this link out as well

    Also, in regards to your regurgitation of the physics of a crash. Did you also take into account the physiology of children? That because their bones are less dense, and they have no reflex to crashes, that when they are involved in a collision, they are less likely to be injured than an adult (whether they are facing front or rear). This is due to be cause when they are in a crash, their body and mind is still in a relax state. They don’t tense like adults. It’s this tensing that causes most breaks in collisions. That’s why you often hear a drunk driver rolling his car and walking away with just a few scratches. That’s because they’re so drunk their body is more or less malleable. Sure it’s possible that their heads could be hyperextended to a point of breaking the neck. But that’s no less of an issue for adults either. I’ve heard of people breaking their necks in collisions at speeds less than 60km/h. It’s all circumstance. No guideline can foresee any of the many variables that can happen during a crash. Again, this is were one’s own common sense should kick in, both in their driving, and how they seat their kids.

  195. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 3:32 am #

    @SKL – if you read through, several different people have all posted explanations of why and how rear-impact crashes are NOT as severe as frontal crashes. EVEN WITH YOUR FOOT ON THE BRAKE – your vehicle will disperse some of the crash energy by moving forward, away from the point of impact. In a frontal impact (whether into another vehicle or into some object like a tree or telephone pole), all of the crash energy has to be absorbed by the vehicle and the occupants.

    On the same token, a rear-facing car seat in a rear impact crash does not perform the exact same way as a forward-facing car seat performs in a frontal crash. If you really need me to spell out the details of crash dynamics to you, let me know and I will. But for now I’ll sum it up to say that a forward-facing child in a frontal collision (remember, the most common) is at higher risk for injury and death (regardless of age) than a rear-facing child in a rear-impact collision (still statistically the rarest type of crash).

    Do some research, if you’re so inclined, but don’t keep suggesting that:
    A) Rear impact crashes are as severe to occupants (whether rear-facing or forward-facing) as frontal impacts.
    B) Rear impact crashes are more common or the most common.

    I never saw a single person say you were stubborn or stupid. And for what it’s worth the 4% came from this and for years it was what we had to go on. I see that the page that was on at has now become and has an update to their diagram, which can be found on this page: It shows rear-impact crashes to be 14% of all crashes (if you include off-set rear-impact). And specifies: “Impact Angle Data – Statistics vary greatly from year-to-year and source-to-source, but we’ve averaged the available data to come up with this angle of impact chart. This chart denotes all collisions, not just fatal or injury-producing incidents.”

  196. EricS March 31, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    @ SKL: I agree with you.

    @ Jennifer: I agree with you on that too. Glad you posted that. That’s one of the variables people fail to see, because they are too busy pondering on what some “experts” tell them what they should believe.

    Guidelines, that’s all they are. But with different situations, one isn’t necessarily more safe than the other.

  197. Elaine March 31, 2011 at 4:06 am #

    Am I the only one who read the *update? And seriously why all the arguing? Each parent/Guardian will do what they feel is best. Why argue over it? Personally I feel that if everyone wasn’t in such a hurry to get no where fast , most of these accidents wouldn’t happen anyway. We all need to slow down and smell the coffee for a change and start getting along better with each other.

  198. Cord March 31, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    I’m continually squicked out by the new, updated, “better” safety recommendations for car seats. I’m not a tall person even as an adult. Using the current regulations in my state, I would have been required to stay in a car seat until after age NINE. That’s NINE years, not just of needing a car seat in my parents’ car, but also needing a car seat to legally ride with anyone else! Can you imagine? A fourth-grader who can’t legally ride with friends and relatives unless they have an appropriately-sized car seat? So glad I grew up in the bad old days…

  199. Dee March 31, 2011 at 4:40 am #

    @EricS: if that was part of another article you read, the writer of the article was either accidentally or intentionally mis-understanding the recommendations. The age of 12 is in the APP recommendations and related studies, but NOT for anything regarding rear-FACING but for sitting the the rear of the car. The highest age recommended age for rear-FACING I’ve seen in any of the studies or discussions is age 4.

    A major part of research is also being able to determine the validity of the sources you’re reading.

    The recommendation is, and actually has been for many years at this point, that children not sit in the front passenger seat. My parents were being told this when I was a child, and I’m in my 30s. I was told this when the safety officer came to my grammar school. Back then, the simple reason was that the front passenger seat has been shown to be the most hazardous seat in the car–you are most likely to die or be badly injured while sitting there. Now the recommendation is also because the air bags put into place to attempt to rectify the above issue for adults (the front passenger seat being the most hazardous for everyone) have worsened, not improved the situation for children.

    So the question becomes: remove air bags and again make the front passenger seat more dangerous for everyone, or leave airbags and tell people that children should sit in the rear?

  200. Emma Blue March 31, 2011 at 4:52 am #

    While the debate on carseats and whatnot is fascinating, can someone explain to me when Lenore specified she is against rear-facing car seats? Because frankly those of you are mad at her because you think she is against them clearly never bothered to actually read the blog and obviously just read the posts and nothing else.

    This is only using a reference on a random article to share her thoughts on toomuch safety. Learn to read, people!

  201. maggie March 31, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    Oh Emma Blue, is this really the place for common sense and rational though? Now, now…:)

  202. pentamom March 31, 2011 at 5:17 am #

    “So the question becomes: remove air bags and again make the front passenger seat more dangerous for everyone, or leave airbags and tell people that children should sit in the rear?”

    Another variable — until I hit middle age, my weight didn’t even meet the guidelines for the front passenger seat. And gaining a few pounds around the middle didn’t really strengthen my neck or spine, so technically I am probably still quite susceptible to statistically worse injury FROM the airbag than I would be saved from BY it. And it’s really really hard to drive from the back seat, and I simply cannot sit in the back from any length of time as a passenger due to carsickness issues.

    So maybe “redesign the airbags so they don’t maim large children and small adults but protect as many people as possible” would be the way to go.

  203. SKL March 31, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    Can’t you turn the passenger airbags on and off in cars nowadays? Seems like that should be standard.

  204. Dee March 31, 2011 at 5:33 am #

    @SKL: some of the newest cars on the market have a weight switch that is supposed to turn off the airbags if someone too light is sitting there. I’ve seen the airbag in our 2008 car go into “off” mode when I have a light backpack on the seat. I have also seen it be on when the kid was sitting in that seat (just sitting with the car on, he’s never ridden while sitting in it obviously) and he’s only 36lbs.

    I believe some pick up trucks and some sports cars have a key method you can use to disable the airbag. (Basically, vehicles where it is not realistic to put a carseat in the back seat because it is either far too small or does not exist.)

    Otherwise (in the US), if your car does not have an automated switch (or the switch works as well as ours) and your car does not fit in the small number of exclusions, you need a waiver from the NHTSA to have a mechanic disable your airbag. From what I hear, they do not give those waivers often or easily.

  205. Dee March 31, 2011 at 5:40 am #

    Information about the NHTSA airbag waivers:

    (Something else referred to on that page–apparently even if you get a waiver, it can be difficult to find a mechanic who will disable the airbag even with it. Most of them don’t want the possible liability.)

  206. Nicolas March 31, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    If the federal government is so concerned with safety, why has it imposed mandatory fleet mileage standards that, according to the National Academy of Sciences, have caused tens of thousands of unnecessary traffic fatalities, having forced consumers into smaller, lighter, and more dangerous cars? In some cases gasoline is apparently more important than the lives of children.

    @ Jennifer
    Nothing at your link says that “14% of all crashes (if you include off-set rear-impact).” If such a stat is on that site, it is at another link. But that site is not a research or government site, it is a “ affiliate,” and therefore of dubious value. The other link you provide, to a graphic, has no source listed for the data. If you are going to lecture others, you had better know how to consult and provide data sources. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Rear-end crashes account for more than 29 percent of all crashes…,” not the 14 percent you claim.

    Using NHTSA data, a study for Volvo found that “rear-end collisions are the most frequent among all crash types, accounting for 29% of all police- reported crashes in the United States, summing up to approximately 1.8 million annually.”

  207. Nicolas March 31, 2011 at 5:43 am #

    Oh, and the link for the Volvo study:

  208. Dee March 31, 2011 at 5:43 am #

    And, more recent info about airbag disabling:

    Summary of the regs:


    * Vehicles without rear seats, or with small rear seats, such as pickup trucks or sports cars, may have a passenger air bag ON-OFF switch as standard equipment.
    * The purpose of the switch in the OFF position is to disable a frontal air bag in order to transport occupants who are at increased risk for air bag-related injury due to age, size, or medical condition.
    * The introduction of advanced frontal air bags has significantly reduced the need for the installation of ON-OFF switches.
    * Because children are always safest in the rear seat, vehicles with enough space in the rear seat to accommodate a child safety seat are not equipped with an ON-OFF switch as standard equipment.
    * Consumers who wish to have an ON-OFF switch installed for either the driver or passenger frontal air bag must apply through NHTSA for permission to have an air bag ON-OFF switch installed. See ON-OFF Switch Requests for details.

  209. Nicolas March 31, 2011 at 5:58 am #

    Another example of the callous disregard that governments have for our safety, despite the pious declarations of bureaucrats, is fact that rear-end collisions have increased with the installation of red-light cameras.

    Red-Light Cameras Increase Accidents: 5 Studies That Prove It

    Red-light cameras are, however, very profitable to the city governments that have installed them.

  210. SKL March 31, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    Jennifer, I did not say rear-impact crashes are, on average, as harmful as front-impact crashes. What I said was:

    (a) Rear-impact crashes happen more often or at least not “way” less often (as others have backed up with statistics); hence

    (b) My kids are far less likely to be in a head-on crash.

    (c) My kids are safer FF in the more likely rear-impact crash.

    (d) The implication by others that rear-impact crashes rarely cause injury because both cars are moving in the same direction is over-simplified. Sometimes a moderately/fast-moving car hits a stationary one. It is not uncommon at all. Suggestions to the contrary are misleading.

    When I decide which safety measures to implement, my first consideration is: what is the risk that this will happen? And then: how bad will it be for my kids at their current age? What are the pros and cons of the recommended risk management guidelines? What other risks need to be weighed against this risk, and how much weight does each deserve?

    The risk of a very unlikely but very dangerous crash needs to be weighed objectively against the risk of a much more likely but less dangerous crash. At a certain age, the risk score of the latter can outweigh the risk score of the former. If I lived in a place where people get rear-ended pretty often, or in another place where people have more head-on crashes, that will affect my analysis.

    Hence I will not rear-face my kids indefinitely, and you are not suggesting I should. I have read some comments (not here) where people swear their kids will rear-face until they are well into primary school. And that’s because they love their kids more than I do, or they are smarter – or maybe it’s because someone told them that RF is ALWAYS safer for EVERYONE. Hmm.

  211. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    @Nikolas – the image on the page (about 2/3 of the way down) – this one with some simple math ends up showing a total of 14% of crashes being rear-impact.

  212. Nicolas March 31, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    @ Jennifer
    It doesn’t show on my browser screen, but in any case I provided a link to the NHTSA, which is the source of the official data, and the correct statistic was 29 percent, not 14 percent. The original source is always the best source of data. So, you can now apologize to Lenore, who was correct.

    The safest choice by far is to never allow a child to ride in a motor vehicle. If optimal safety is the objective, how can any parent justify transporting her child in a car, or riding a bike, or using a skateboard, or to live in a house with stairs, or to do any other the many things in life that entail risks?

    What safety is the right amount of safety? Are there more important things than safety? (For instance, liberty.) Is the determination of optimal safety properly an individual-parental one, or one of government officials? The federal government claims to care more than we do about our kids, therefore mandating how we restrain them. But then the same federal government mandates that we own smaller cars in which our children are more likely to be killed. Is the issue safety or control?

    Why does the government insist on comparing accident risks for children in car seats to those with no restraints, and ignore the alternative of seat belts (for children over two)?

  213. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    @Nikolas – Thanks for the link to the Volvo study, but you do realize that the sentence you quoted “rear-end collisions are the most frequent among all crash types, accounting for 29% of all police- reported crashes in the United States, summing up to approximately 1.8 million annually.” contradicts itself? I would think that anyone capable of posting here would understand that 29% of anything does not represent the “most frequent” of anything. Additionally, the report states that “approximately 70% of the striking cars in car-to-car single rear-end collisions have an impact speed lower than 30 km/h.” which confirms my statement that rear-impact crashes are not as severe (30 km/h equates to a little over 18.5 mph).

  214. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    @Nikolas – what exactly was Lenore correct about that I’m supposed to be apologizing for? The only link I see was for an article that erroneously claims that 29% = “most frequent”. Based on that sentence alone, I could easily say that the researchers who wrote that paper are obviously too stupid to write anything I could trust.

    Additionally, I’ve already already posted several different sources that indicate that while rear-impact crashes DO represent a much higher percentage than the 4% that was originally being tossed around, they are still the LEAST LIKELY type of crash. Not only that, but I have posted links that also show that rear-impact crashes ALSO are the least likely to cause fatalities, and one of the lowest type of crashes to cause injury.

  215. Donna March 31, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    “They just want to stop the EPIDEMIC of children who are DYING.”

    Epidemic of kids who are dying? Really? Whatever you feel about car seats this is WAY over the top. In 2009, 1,070 kids under 10 died in car accidents. In a country with around 40 million children, most of whom ride in cars several times each day, this is hardly an epidemic. Further, once you subtract out from that 1.070, the kids who weren’t in car seats because they exceeded the requirements, kids who were required to be in car seats but weren’t, kids who were in improperly installed car seats or were improperly secured in car seats (the largest cause of car deaths in young children) and the 25% that your statistics say will die anyway regardless of the position of the safety seat, we are talking about a miniscule (in the scheme of 40 million children, not in the value of a life) number of lives saved by leaving the child rear-facing. Probably about the same number as are kidnapped by strangers each year.

    I’m all for giving information and allowing people to make their own informed choices, but let’s give CORRECT information and not the same scare tactics that helicopter parents use to support never allowing their children out of their sight. By all means, if you don’t care and your kids don’t care, leave them rear-facing but don’t act like leaving kids rear-facing is saving thousands of lives a year because it’s not.

    “Legs have this nifty new feature called knees. They bend!”

    Great, you sit criss cross applesauce (which is by far the stupidest PC phrase I’ve ever heard in my life) for several hours straight. My kid doesn’t enjoy it and I don’t blame her.

    “Additionally, I’ve already already posted several different sources that indicate that while rear-impact crashes DO represent a much higher percentage than the 4% that was originally being tossed around, they are still the LEAST LIKELY type of crash.”

    Hmmmm. I strongly suspect that this is manipulated statistics. I do agree that the vast majority of rear-end collision are non/very minor injury collisions, with most being little more than a ding to the car. I suspect that this is how the statistic is manipulated – it discounts all the minor rear-end collisions that I see at least weekly on my way to and fro work.

  216. Donna March 31, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    “but you do realize that the sentence you quoted “rear-end collisions are the most frequent among all crash types, accounting for 29% of all police- reported crashes in the United States, summing up to approximately 1.8 million annually.” contradicts itself? I would think that anyone capable of posting here would understand that 29% of anything does not represent the “most frequent” of anything.”

    29% CAN be the “most frequent” when there are multiple options. It cannot be a majority, but it can be the “most frequent.” For example, if car accidents break down into (a bunch of completely made up numbers):

    29% – rear end
    21% – t-bone
    10% – head-on with another vehicle
    10% – striking a fixed object
    10% – roll over
    10% – animal/person impact
    10% – leaving roadway without striking an object

    29% is, indeed, the single “most frequent” cause of collisions. The majority of car accidents are not rear-end collisions but rear-end collisions occur more often than any other type of car accident.

  217. Taylor Meacham March 31, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    @Jennifer – Thanks for the link. I don’t see the “thoroughly and completely debunked” part of it though. I see “he said, she said.” There is a comment on the linked page that I think makes a great point: the data for the pediatrician studies comes from interviews. Interviews, really? The Car Seat Lady (with a name like that what could we expect)* also makes an “ad journalim” attacks against the Journal of Economic Inquiry, while lauding praise on other peer reviewed journals. Also the link wrongly attributes the authorship of the 2009 study to Levitt and Dubner, instead of Levitt and Doyle. Not exactly hallmarks of quality.

    Whom do I trust more with statistical interpretation: an economist or a pediatrician? An economist has far more training in the area.

    “I would think that anyone capable of posting here would understand that 29% of anything does not represent the “most frequent” of anything.”

    “Based on that sentence alone, I could easily say that the researchers who wrote that paper are obviously too stupid to write anything I could trust.”

    How can 29% be the most common type of car crash? Simple. There are more than 3 types of car crashes in the data set, which includes: rear-end, head-on, angle, side-swipe same direction, side-swipe opposite direction, and others. So let’s say 29% for read-end, and an equal split of 17.75% for the others I’ve enumerated.

    Ta-da! 29 > 17.75, therefore 29% does in fact = the most frequent! Let this be a lesson in mathematical humility to us all.

    See page 34.

    *Lest I be accused of an ad hominem fallacy myself, let me simply note that “The Car Seat Lady” has a facially obvious bias, where as the “Journal of Economic Inquiry” does not.

    In summary, I have no problems if anyone wants to put their kids in rear-facing seats and boosters seats for longer than I do. You can even feel like you are a better parent than I am (which may be the truth). I just want to maintain my legal right to make my own judgment in this area.

  218. Taylor Meacham March 31, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    @Donna – if I had seen your comment before I submitted mine, mine would have been a lot shorter.

  219. Anne March 31, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Your update is precisely why I love you. You do your research on issues and you take into account safety that isn’t hyper-media-overblown panic. I consider myself a Free Range Parent, but I came across when my son was still an infant. That’s all it took for me to decide to ERF (Extended Rear-Face) my son. He stayed rear-facing until about 3 weeks before his second birthday and we only turned him then because 1) he weighed over 30 pounds, 2) he was unable to climb into and out of the rear-facing seat on his own, and 3) lifting his weight into and out of the seat (and his crib) gave me bursitis and tendonitis in my shoulder from which I still haven’t fully recovered four months later.

    Except for his inability to climb in and out of the seat when positioned that way, Liam didn’t mind being rear-facing despite the fact that he’s in the 95th percentile for height.

  220. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    @Taylor Meachum; @Donna –

    Except that you are forgetting that if 29% of crashes were rear-impacts, AT LEAST 29% of crashes were ALSO frontal impacts. SO you have to ADD those to the already existing numbers for frontal impacts (or your made-up numbers). Therefore, they cannot POSSIBLY be the most common type of crash, unless all frontal impact crashes are also rear-impact crashes.

    Remember from school when they taught that “all A’s were 1’s and all 1’s were C’s, but that does not mean that all A’s were C’s”? Same thing here. All rear-impact crashes, by definition, are also frontal-impact crashes. But not all frontal-impact crashes are also rear-impact crashes.

  221. SKL March 31, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    This discussion, minus some of the emotion, is a good example of why I feel parents need to question recommendations / laws. With a fuller picture of whatever facts are out there, we see that things are not black and white, and we can make a parenting decision that is appropriate for our individual child. Now let’s all hope that the lawmakers are too confused by all of the above to come up with any new laws about it.

  222. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    @Taylor Meachum,

    About the Steven Levitt/Freakonomics car seat article:

    I only posted the link I did because it summed up where the article was wrong. But since you don’t like the link or the “ad journalim” attacks, I’ll sum it up for you here in a few sentences.

    Levitt said that children over the age of 2 were as safe in a seat belt as they were in a car seat. What he based this on was that the FATALITY RATE for children over the age of 2 was similar whether they were in a child restraint or seat belt. What he DID NOT take into account was:

    1) Whether or not the child restraint was properly used (not so important to this particular article)
    2) The injury rates for those children, specifically SERIOUS injury (specifically, brain injuries, closed-head injuries, neck injuries and abdominal injuries – all of which can be debilitating and require life-long care, as well as significantly shorten the child’s life span.

    When you compare all those factors, using a seat belt doesn’t have the same ‘safety’ as a child restraint or booster until a child is closer to 12 years old.

  223. Dee March 31, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    @Jennifer: while many rear impact crashes are the result of a car’s front crashing into the rear of another car, not all rear-impact crashes are the result of front-impact crashes.

    All you have to do is visit my son’s daycare to see examples of THAT. I’ve seen multiple parents back into the sides of other cars. *sigh* A couple of my neighbors also seem to have the tendency to back into their mailboxes or their garage doors.

  224. SKL March 31, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    Jennifer, I read the %s to be what the aggressor car (A-car) hit. A-car hit someone else’s rear end 29% of the time, etc. One would assume that nearly all of the time, A-car did the hitting with its own front end.

    You could say that means I’m over 50% likely to have my front end involved in a crash. But that assumes car accidents are completely random. It ignores factors such as what kind of drivers tend to drive A-cars. Like, drivers who are drunk or otherwise impaired, who text and drive, who are inexperienced, very young, very old, always in a hurry, etc. I’m none of those.

    Jennifer, I also noticed one of the statistics in one of your links showed that there was almost no difference in outcome for kids age 1-3 who were in child seats versus restrained with a seatbelt. Who would guess?

    So although Lenore took a beating on her original post, I begin to wonder whether the pro-RF laymen would be so adamant if they knew that RF has been supported largely by completely bogus statistics and selective reporting of information.

    I almost feel like I found a box of fraud evidence in the storage room. Yuck.

  225. SKL March 31, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    The 29% statistic is also consistent with another article that someone linked to before, regarding highway design, where they were talking about cars rear-ending other cars because they didn’t notice the person ahead had stopped.

  226. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    @Dee – but I’m guessing that very few, if any of those “crashes” ever ended up as a statistic where they counted who lived, who died and who had injuries. I don’t recall seeing a column for mailboxes in the traffic safety facts reports. 😉

  227. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    @SKL – it’s funny how you keep ignoring the clear evidence and poking around trying to find holes. I can’t imagine what kind of fraud evidence you think you’ve found, but it sort of seems to be of your own making.

    Someone above posted that in Sweden, NOT A SINGLE REAR-FACING CHILD DIED in 2009. Someone else posted that in Sweden they’ve practically eliminated car accident deaths in small children. You made up the supposed statistics that might somehow explain that as irrelevant or not applicable (you said: “but they even admit that they spend less time in cars than we do, and they have a smaller population, and surely there are lots of other differences that make the comparison unhelpful. In short, I really don’t care what Sweden does and I’m kinda sick of hearing it.”)

    So stop blaming others for somehow making you think there’s some sort of fraud being perpetuated. The only fraud here is you – because you aren’t grown up enough to admit that the evidence is there, the evidence is clear, and there’s a good reason for the recommendations. If you want to stick your fingers in your ears and sing “nah, nah, nah, nah I can’t hear you.” that’s fine. But don’t pretend for a second it’s not because people haven’t been trying to teach you what’s real, what’s true and what’s very clearly black and white.

  228. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    @SKL – you wrote: “I also noticed one of the statistics in one of your links showed that there was almost no difference in outcome for kids age 1-3 who were in child seats versus restrained with a seatbelt. Who would guess?”

    IN DEATH. Almost no difference in DEATHS. Plenty of difference in brain injuries, plenty of difference in head injuries, plenty of difference in neck and spinal cord injuries, plenty of difference in abdominal injuries, including the kind where the child gets to poop into a bag for the rest of her life, etc.

  229. SKL March 31, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Jennifer, the statistic I was talking about re the kids age 1-3 was in a paper about “injuries.”

    I can see this carseat issue is big for you, but since you have had to back off on some of the numbers you based your strong opinion on, have you reconsidered your position at all?

    Re Sweden – the fact that no Swedish kid died while rear-facing does not prove that my kid is gonna die if she is FF. Here’s how your logic looks to me: there are almost no documented cases of peanut allergy in many tropical countries. We should feed our deathly allergic kids tropical peanuts, so they will be cured of their allergies!

    Jennifer, I don’t mean to be an asshole, but your numerical analyses posted here are not convincing to folks who analyze numbers for a living. That is why pig-headed people like me won’t just go along with your “evidence.”

    I’m not accusing you of fraud, by the way. But whoever provided the information used to sell the new “guidelines” has either poor reasoning skills or little respect for the truth.

  230. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    @SKL “the statistic I was talking about re the kids age 1-3 was in a paper about “injuries.””

    Link please?

  231. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    @SKL – could you please be more specific? Quote me, if you must. But I’d really like to know what “numerical analyses” I’ve posted that are not convincing?

    You know why we have seat belts? Because 40+ years ago in Sweden, seat belts were saving lives. You know why we moved from a lap belt to a lap/shoulder belt system? Same reason – they were doing it in Sweden and showing that it saved lives. The original rear-facing recommendations came from there and were based on 20 years of research. You might want to just dismiss it out of hand (US-centric much?) but the fact is that most of our vehicle safety features come from Swedish research and are based on Swedish systems. Even our head restraints (that are keeping YOU safe in those rear-impact crashes).

    I’ll be happy to continue the dialog if you’re really interested in facts. It seems that every time I post one, you either pretend like I didn’t, or generically paint it with your fraud brush without any evidence or facts of your own to back yourself up.

  232. SKL March 31, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    Jennifer, this is the link that you posted earlier. Look on page 12 of the report / page 16 of the PowerPoint file.

  233. SKL March 31, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Jennifer, I see you are a Swedophile, and that’s great. Surely most countries are responsible for some aspects of advances in our culture, and vice versa. Not sure how this became all about Sweden, but whatever.

    I have no personal beef with you. It’s just that the numbers keep moving all over the place and I’m getting less and less confident in them. I don’t believe public policy, laws, or big spending should be based on fuzzy data. We get ourselves into all kinds of trouble that way.

    I’ve already mentioned various figures that I questioned, and you can read over your past comments to understand what analyses I am talking about.

    Keep in mind that I kept my kids rear-facing to 2.5, and that decision was made long before any of this hype came out. I’m not trying to kill my kids or yours (or the ones in Sweden).

  234. molly March 31, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    I’m glad to see the update. I’d take comfortably folded legs over internal decapitation any day. Rear-facing doen’t hinder childhood.

  235. buffy March 31, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    Donna, I was so glad to read your rebuttal of the “have you ever heard of knees? They bend!” crowd. I wanted to ask every one of them if they had ever, ever felt like stretching their legs out while riding in the car.

    Apropos of nothing, my grandma topped out at 4’8″.
    She would have needed a booster her whole life!

  236. brenna March 31, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    I’m glad that you have updated your position on this matter. While I do agree with you in general that we as a society go way overboard when it comes to safety. I think what I look at when making these type of decisions is what is the risk factor. For example I don’t have locks on my toilet seats, when my son was very young I kept the bathroom doors closed & the seats down, he was unable to open the door or lift the seat besides I had never herd of a toddler drowning in a toilet although I suppose it’s possible. Dieing or having a sever injury is not a risk I was willing to take. The is a copy of the email I sent to Tim about his article.

    Dear Tim,

    First I would like to say that you make many good points & I don’t completely disagree with them, BUT as a journalist you should be a bit more responsible before you write such an article. Although it was interesting it was not well researched if at all. If you had seen a video of a crash test comparison between a forward facing seat & a rear facing seat you would not have even written this article. If you had seen just one heartbreaking video about a child who died (yes I said died) or was severely injured you would not have written this article. My son is four and a half and is still rear-facing & will be until he hits the seat max of 35 lbs (some now go to 40 lbs). I can assure you he is not missing out on anything. This is a similar argument that people use to avoid wearing seat belts & motorcycle helmets.

    Please take a few minutes to watch this video, it’s a true story & also includes the crash test comparison.

    I hope that next time you educate yourself on a subject you are not familiar with before you write an article.

    Thank you for your time,

  237. alg March 31, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Just a quote from one of the articles referenced earlier…will hopefully clear up some of the ambiguity regarding front-end vs. rear-end crashes:

    Vehicle- and Infrastructure-based Technology
    For the Prevention of Rear-end Collisions —

    “According to the 1999 Fatal Analysis Reporting System, rear-end collisions accounted for 29.5 percent of all crashes that year. Sometimes referred to as a frontal collision, a rear-end collision occurs when the following vehicle strikes the rear of the lead vehicle.”

    RF vs. FF seems to ruffle feathers, both here and in the comments section of the NYT. I certainly hope that some of the energy we put into deciding which car seat is statistically safer can be put into making our communities more walkable/bikable/busable.

  238. Tuppence March 31, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    I haven’t read through all the comments, so not sure if s.o. touched on the subject yet, but I wish the writer had elaborated on his point of the problem with safety.

    He writes “I know of one economist who believes that we would be safer if, instead of an airbag in the steering wheel, cars were equipped with a spear pointing at the driver’s chest. So, perhaps he thinks that toddlers would be safer if we used them as hood ornaments, I don’t know”. But the writer doesn’t explain what is meant: The problem with too much safety is — it doesn’t really work. A little something called “risk compensation” comes into play. The more secure we feel, the more reckless we (believe we can afford to) become.

    This from about the 50th anniversary of the seatbelt:

    “But before we break out the champagne substitute to honor the three-point seat belt’s demi-centennial, we might also consider the possibility that some drivers have caused accidents precisely because they were wearing seat belts.

    This counterintuitive idea was introduced in academic circles several years ago and is broadly accepted today. The concept is that humans have an inborn tolerance for risk—meaning that as safety features are added to vehicles and roads, drivers feel less vulnerable and tend to take more chances. The feeling of greater security tempts us to be more reckless. Behavioral scientists call it “risk compensation.”

    Three weeks spent on Long Island, and one is spoiled for choice to observe this phenomenon. One example is drivers there (is this true elsewhere in US?), now CRUISE through red traffic lights. Not even slowing down, not even speeding up, to “make” the light – no, cruising, MANY seconds after the light has changed. It’s as if the first 10 seconds of a RED – not yellow! – LIGHT, doesn’t count. It’s very disconcerting to observe, to say the least (this ties in with the tweet L. had to a post re. the atmosphere of fear created when these kinds of of traffic violations go unpunished).

    Also, I think all the “safety” enjoyed by car drivers is very much as the expense of pedestrians. The attitude toward pedestrians in Long Island is appalling.

    I was driving there last summer, and needed to make a right turn. A teenage girl was crossing the street I needed to turn into. Rather than complete my turn in front of her and make HER stop (and risk stranding her in the middle of a busy street), I stopped my car to let her finish crossing the street and SAFELY reach the other side, The car directly behind me, that also wanted to turn right, went ape-s***.

    It seemed to be a “soccer mom” (SUV with all the appendage), who probably has, or will in due time have, a teenager of her own. But no sympathy for the one crossing the street was to be had. She went to it with a seriously nasty loooong angry blow of her horn and abusive hand gesters: What the hell was I doing??! Streets are for cars, screw the walker – and move it!!!!

    My guess is that she and her brood no longer even know what life without seatbelts, front and side airbags, backward facing childseats, and big sheets of metal between them and the outside world, feel like. THEY feel safe in their huge, safety-kitted-out- tank that they navigate the world in. Who wouldn’t?

    And when you feel, well, ARE safe, you can throw some caution (along with a few pedestrians) to the wind.

  239. Taylor Meacham March 31, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    @Jennifer – bless your heart for valiantly defending your position.

    “Remember from school when they taught that if “all A’s were 1′s and all 1′s were C’s, but that does not mean that all A’s were C’s”? Same thing here. All rear-impact crashes, by definition, are also frontal-impact crashes.”

    If all A’s are ones, and all 1’s are C’s, then all A’s are in fact C’s. Just think a bit more about it. The conclusions you can’t draw are that that all C’s are 1’s, all 1’s are A’s, or that all C’s are A’s. Draw a circle labelled A, inside a larger circle labelled 1. This represents all A’s are ones. Now draw a larger around the 1 circle labelled C. This is all 1’s are C’s. Please note the A circle lies entirely inside the C circle. From your stated premises, all A’s are in fact C’s.

    How this applies to all rear-impacts, by definition, also being frontal-impacts regardless of how the studies are conducted is, frankly, beyond me.

    The Levitt’s analysis of only fatalities is certainly the best argument against it reliance on it. But the assumption that fatalities can tell us something about injuries isn’t absurd, it just doesn’t let us see the whole story clearly. One of the good things about their analysis is that it uses actual data, car seats usage out there in the real world. You dislike that aspect while I do like it.

  240. Dragonwolf March 31, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    Oh and also BTW, when I was rear-ended with my kids in the car, I was stopped at a red light (with my foot on the break). So the “physics” analysis would be the same as if someone had hit me head-on while I was stopped. Don’t always assume that the front car is moving when hit. Most likely the driver behind made that assumption too and it was wrong – hence, the accident.

    SKL, I assume you’re referring to my explanation of the forces on bodies in crashes explanation.

    No, it wouldn’t have been same as a head-on collision. The semi still rear-ended you, so the physics of that collision still follow you being rear-ended, you just happened to be stationery at the time of the impact. If you were then pushed into another car, in front of you, then you would also the frontal impact mechanics, in addition to the rear impact ones.

    Here’s the funny thing about brakes – they only stop the force of the car’s own engine, they also require you to maintain force on the pedal to keep them engaged. Therefore, when the truck hit you, you moved, even if you somehow managed to keep your foot on the brake. The truck’s inertia (mass*velocity) easily overpowered your inertia (which has a lower mass*velocity). It wouldn’t surprise me if you ended up in the middle, or even other side, of the intersection after your vehicle stopped moving again.

    That said, my explanation regarded mostly the cases from the perspective of the vehicle doing the impact (in your case, the semi). Therefore, because your vehicle gave, by moving, the force of the impact was lower on the driver of the semi than it would have been had he hit a rooted object that doesn’t give (such as a large tree).

    The size difference between a small car and a semi kind of make that part moot (as the driver probably didn’t take much from the impact, because his vehicle took it all), but do not turn the rear impact into you into “like someone hitting me head-on while stopped.” Regardless of what hit you, you were still hit from behind, as your car’s forward-moving velocity suddenly went up, your body was pushed into the parts of the car that were behind you (aka the seat). Had you been hit “head-on” (from the front), you would have had a change in velocity going backward from your perspective, and would have therefore been pushed forward, into the dash, steering wheel, or (if you’re in the back of the car) front seat.

    On a side note to all those who are claiming they would never be in a frontal collision because they are safe drivers, never drive drunk, etc. – When the drunk driver crosses the yellow line, who do you think they hit, and how? Head-on to the poor sap that’s driving relatively safely, but doesn’t have time (or space) to move.

  241. Tuppence March 31, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    Ya want less car accidents? Hugh decline in fatalities? Less drunk driving? Raise gasoline prices!!!

  242. Matt L. March 31, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    This is why I will keep the kiddo RF and buy myself a Hans Device and helmet….

  243. SKL March 31, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Dragonwolf, I was trying to keep it simple. I don’t disagree with your physics, but in that statement you quoted, I was talking about the car itself, not the people in it. And the semi incident was a completely different incident, in which I actually was moving forward (still got whacked pretty good). The time when I was stopped, a regular car hit me from behind. From the perspective of physics on the car, other than the difference in shape between the front and rear, the impact would be the same whether I was hit (while stopped) from the front or rear. As for the car “giving” (unlike a sturdy tree), that would be true regardless of whether it was hit from the front or rear. Of course the passengers would be affected differently assuming they were FF in each case. My point was that multiple people are stating an assumption that a rear-end collision involves two moving cars, and that is a faulty assumption, i.e., it could be true or untrue in each case.

    As for “I’ll never have a frontal collision,” I agree that it’s not impossible, but the likelihood is a lot lower due to choices I make. I don’t expect to be 100% in control of what happens to me, but like I said earlier, “accidents” are far from random. I drive on 2-way streets all the time, and I have very rarely been in danger of being hit by someone coming at me in my lane. Sure, there have been a few close calls with people passing in unsafe conditions and such. But when I analyze risk, I weigh the probability along with the severity. I’m not one of those people who fills the bathtub with water every time I hear a big storm is coming, just in case.

  244. Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    @Taylor Meachum – forgive my late-night mindlessness. What I intended was: “If all A’s are 1’s, and all 1’s are C’s, that does not in fact make all C’s also A’s”.

    But I did explain my messed up formula correctly when I translated it into crashes. Instead of all, let’s put “An Overwhelming Majority”

    An Overwhelming Majority of rear-impact crashes are also frontal impact crashes. But An Overwhelming Majority of front-impact are also side-impact crashes, head-to-head crashes, frontal offset crashes and front-impact into non-vehicle crashes. Therefore the number of frontal crashes is An Overwhelming Majority more than rear impact crashes.

  245. Erika Evans March 31, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    Wow. Just, wow.

    For the record, I agree wholeheartedly with SKL, Larry and others who think similarly.

    I also think the “I’VE LOST ALL RESPECT FOR YOU LENORE I’M LEAVING AND NEVER COMING BACK!!11!!!!!!!111!” people are wound a little too tight. Frankly, being unwilling to consider positions that don’t jive with What You Know To Be True!!! usually indicates an inferior intellect.

    I don’t for a minute believe all the statistics that people/orgs with an agenda throw out there. Manipulating data to inflate risk very often leads to attention, notoriety, papers getting published, research money, federal grants, etc. Do some research on the center for missing and exploited children–a scam if ever there was one.

    This is absolutely a Free Range issue, because we must not allow the [often faulty] risk perceptions of others determine how we raise our children.

  246. maggie March 31, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    Well said, Erika Evans! Thank you!

  247. Donna April 1, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    “Except that you are forgetting that if 29% of crashes were rear-impacts, AT LEAST 29% of crashes were ALSO frontal impacts. ”

    Not true at all. If I back into something I’ve been involved in a rear-end collision but there is not corresponding front-end collision.

    Car accidents are defined as the impact to the innocent driver, not as to the impact of the at-fault driver – which is almost always front impact. However, if we are defining “front-end collision” as the at-fault driver who hits something, those accidents are fairly easy to avoid with a little attention. Thus, I’m not going to spend my life worrying about what will happen to my child when I cause an accident. I’ve managed to avoid doing that for 22 years and I’m pretty confident of my ability to continue to do so, especially when my child is in the car. Really, if you are thinking “what car seat is safest when I slam into someone because I’m too busy talking on my cellphone to pay attention to the red light in front of me,” then maybe you should reconsider the idea of ever driving your child anywhere.

  248. SCKH April 1, 2011 at 2:53 am #

    Just thought I would point out that the inexpensive seats that were documented by someone got abysmal reviews…not sure that makes them great option.

    Also, size of car is about more than fitting a seat behind the front driver or passenger seat (we have had trouble with a small “bucket” seat in a Dodge Neon)…it is also about having to get a mini van or larger should you choose to have more than one child. If my oldest was only 18 months when my #2 was born, I would have had to have 2 rear facing seats (that fills up both sides of the backseat – hope the driver doesn’t need much room)…Now, #3 comes along and I have a 4, 2, and 0 year old all in giant seats. What regular passenger car can fit that?

    I am not against child safety seats or child safety, but would appreciate more consideration from the camp that already had jumped on this bandwagon. I love my kids and my choices are sometimes made for financial or ease of use reasons…not because I am trying to kill or maim my kids!

  249. Donna April 1, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    ” all car collisions are avoidable.”

    Not true at all. A large number of collisions in my area are caused by deer running out in front of the car. There are definitely times when those buggers change direction and dart in front of you, leaving you no recourse other than to hit them or go off the road.

  250. BMS April 1, 2011 at 3:01 am #

    SCKH, I hear you.

    I found a lot of the moms that I knew who were super paranoid about their kids’ car safety had what I call the ‘luxury’ to be that way. Sure, if money is no object, you can buy a ginormous tank of a vehicle, and the most expensive car seats, and multiple sets of these car seats so that you can drive your kids around in a $100K cocoon o’ safety. Sorry, some of us can’t do that. Some of us have to make do with the best car seat we can afford, and an ancient car. Does that make us bad uncaring parents? No. But maybe some of the ‘driving tanks while sipping latte’s and talking nonstop on the cell phone’ crowd might do better to say, keep their eyes on the road and improve safety for everyone, not just the wealthy.

  251. Ali April 1, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    This has been such an enlightening discussion…car seats, wow. From the “if it keeps one child safer, we should do it camp” to the “let me do as I deem fit” It’s a perfect example of the free range philosophy wherein if “it saves just one child, we should do it” without any considerations to the overall cost to society and whether it really is a ‘safer’ outcome. This is free range in a nutshell.

    I personally think the car manufacturers bear more responsibility to keep passengers of varying heights safer. Which is what the Freakonomics team was trying to point out. For the most part, if you’re buckled in, you’ll be safer. But short of a roll cage, 5 point harness, and helmet you won’t be as safe as you could be. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d prefer to keep a lap belt and my head helmet free while driving. But if we go with the “worst case” thinking we’d all be in roll cages and 5 points…..which is exactly the discussion we’re having with kids being in more and more restrictive car seats.

    2 cents.

  252. SKL April 1, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    SCKH, that’s a really good point. Technically, I can afford a lot more “safety” – among other things – than I choose to invest in. Part of the reason I am “frugal” compared to some is that I don’t feel right doing something for myself / my kids that is inaccessible to everyday people. The last thing I want my kids to think is that they are more valuable than anyone else.

    So for those who would say “I’ll put my kid’s safety ahead of ____,” I say, would you also put up the same money for a less-fortunate family to buy the same thing?” If a cheaper seat is good enough for them, then isn’t it just plain good enough?

    I think a lot of the car safety issues boil down to just getting people on board with the basics. Think ahead. Drive carefully. Buckle everyone in properly. My unscientific estimate of accidents that could be avoided if we had 100% participation on those three things? About 95%. In any case, much higher than the marginal benefit of buying a more expensive car seat.

  253. Mark April 1, 2011 at 4:35 am #

    If I could get a rear-facing driver’s seat for my car, I would. It’s far and away the safest orientation in a collision.

  254. pentamom April 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Eric, I think I’ve done this before, but:

    The definition of the word accident is not limited to the meaning “that which is entirely beyond anyone’s control, for which no one assumes any blame, and which would not happen if all people involved were infallibly wise and careful.”

    “Accident” is a perfectly legitimate word for any car crash, other than assault by vehicle situations.

  255. molly April 1, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Not reading all the comments, just mentioning that last month Wal-Mart and Target had the Cosco Scerena on sale for $40. I don’t know if the sale is still going on or not. I bought four! 🙂 ……. Also, I hope all of you who FF your kids early are at least putting the chest clip on their chests, not leaving it down on their bellies.

  256. alg April 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    Just want to mention that the Swedes have been RFing their children for decades with good results, and that in mostly small European cars. Sweden just happens to be the absolute state of the art when it comes to child passenger safety WITHOUT accompanying helicopter insanity — Swedish culture is much more free-range in general compared to Anglophile culture. They’ve decided that cars are risky business, but still allow their kids an enviable amount of independence in everyday life. (Ever heard of the Lucia festival? Kids wearing REAL candles on their heads and running around in the dark?) I don’t think Jennifer is being a Swedophile, she’s just giving credit where credit is due.

    “I don’t for a minute believe all the statistics that people/orgs with an agenda throw out there. Manipulating data to inflate risk very often leads to attention, notoriety, papers getting published, research money, federal grants, etc.”

    So which people and which statistics can we trust when? Just the statistics and organizations that overlap with the beliefs we already hold? Healthy skepticism comes with the responsibility to check facts before dismissing them out of hand, and responsible scientists are a) transparent when it comes to their data b) ethical when it comes to upholding the scientific method in their community c) trained to be critical and discerning, not paranoid and misleading. I am involved in the scientific community myself, and folks generally don’t go into science, or academia for that matter, for the money and the cushy 9 to 5 work schedule. Attention? From the twenty people in your specific field. Papers getting published? Anonymous peer review. Not always 100% (see Andrew Wakefield), but it works pretty damn well. And if the AAP’s agenda is keeping children from getting sick, injured, and dying, then yes, I’ll still check their data on things like this, but I won’t immediately assume they’re just in it for the money and the fame. How can I tell my children that people are basically good, but don’t believe those AAP pediatricians for a minute?

  257. Donna April 1, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    “How can I tell my children that people are basically good, but don’t believe those AAP pediatricians for a minute?”

    I don’t tell my child not to believe AAP pediatricians. I tell her that she has a brain and critical thinking abilities and can decide what works best for her. Blind loyalty to anyone’s recommendations is idiotic.

    Science is usually tested in a vacuum. They test their own hypotheses in a lab under perfect conditions. And, yes, they do it with a hypothesis that they want to prove, not for their own edification just to see what happens. When you go into any scenario with an idea of what you believe the outcome should be, you will interpret any results open to interpretation to support that outcome. We see it in the law all the time. My cohort at the DA’s office and I look at the exact same facts and exact same laws and the exact same cases and come up with different results because we are looking at all of it from different angles.

    And even the best doctors and scientists are not infallable. When I was a child AAP told parents to put their children to sleep on their stomachs. When my brother was an infant, parent were told to put them to sleep on their sides. Now it’s their backs.

    The fact is that in perfect lab conditions using crash test dummies, rear-facing car seats are probably the safest (except in particular car accidents when they’re not). Fact is that in the real world where kids move, kids get uncomfortable, babies scream, kids get carsick, seats don’t fit properly, etc., you have to balance lab safety vs real world implications.

    Rear-facing car seats are minimally safer than front-facing car seats. VERY FEW children die in car wrecks and most of those are attributed to improperly installed car seats or improperly secured children rather than the placement of the car seat. Each person should use their own critical thinking skills to determine if the risk that they will be in an accident in which their child would be saved by being rear-facing car seat instead of a properly installed front-facing car seat surpasses the other implications in their life of using rear-facing car seats and make a determination accordingly rather than blindly following AAP recommendations.

  258. alg April 1, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    Donna: as I said, I double-check data and come to my own conclusions (and encourage my children to do the same), but I do not immediately assume that other people, who presumably either have children or find them important enough to dedicate their careers to healing them, manipulate data because of hidden agendas meant to panic parents and make boatloads of money. For that matter, I don’t believe that most people go into law to make boatloads of money and attention (although some do), but to help make the world a better and fairer place. Doesn’t mean I believe everything a lawyer says, just means that I believe people are good and want to do good. Doesn’t stop me from using my brain, but it keeps me from becoming a cynic. 🙂

  259. alg April 1, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    *garner attention

  260. Jen April 2, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    My biggest issue with the new regulations? The fact that they will likely become law. Most likely, they won’t become law by the time I no longer have to worry about it, since that process is usually long and painful, and we’re currently TTC our last, but I still disagree with any law that tells me how to make personal decisions. I don’t wear a seatbelt, as I have been in 2 semi-serious car accidents, one a head-on collision, and both times, the EMT said I would have suffered broken ribs if I had been wearing a seatbelt. My mother would not have been alive to conceive me (and both my aunt and grandmother would have died) if she had been wearing a seatbelt in the accident they were in in 1970. Mom would have been literally cut in half. Instead, she had a broken jaw and had to eat through a straw for 6 months. But she was alive.

    Also, as seen at another site in a discussion about this topic and fitting RF carseats in a small car: “I will sit AS CLOSE TO THE STEERING WHEEL AS NECESSARY to keep my child as safe as possible for as long as possible.” (Caps mine) I managed to refrain from commenting to the poster that all that will mean is that the child will grow up motherless, since airbags can be deadly if you are too close.

    I also have a problem with the sanctimommies who assume that if you don’t raise your child the same way as they do, you’re a horrible, neglectful, abusive mother. These are all words one woman called me to my face when hearing that my 2-year-old is FF, and has been since she reached the minimums for the seat we purchased. We turned her around right about her first birthday, to the chagrin of my pediatrician, who advocates for ERF. I am the parent, however, and will make the decision I feel best for my child. I read the statistics, I saw the videos, and I made an informed decision. Just because it isn’t the decision that YOU would want me to make does NOT give you the right to call me names or insult me. (No specific person targeted there, so please don’t assume anything.)

  261. Jennifer April 4, 2011 at 6:47 am #

    Hopefully most people have moved on from this thread (because it would be sad to just sit around waiting to continue arguing). But for anyone who is left, let me try this one more time.

    If I were to suggest to you that Dreyer’s Rocky Road ice cream is “the best” flavor of ice cream, of course you have the right to disagree. Because the preference of flavor of ice cream is SUBJECTIVE to the person eating it. However, if I were to suggest to you that Dreyer’s Rocky Road ice cream could exacerbate diabetes, you could disagree with me, but you would be wrong. That’s because no matter how much you want your personal opinion to matter, when it comes to OBJECTIVE TRUTH, personal opinion is always irrelevant.

    I noticed that someone above suggested that the data from which the RF recommendations were made came from science that was performed “in a vacuum”. Again – the RF recommendations came from nearly a decade of studying the outcomes from real-world crashes. It doesn’t matter what your age, or income level or race or personal beliefs are when it comes to this: rear-facing, for children up to age 2, is safer.

    Anytime you try to put it in the context of a personal, parental decision, you look like an idiot. OBJECTIVE/SUBJECTIVE. Look them up, learn them, and then stop suggestion that one is interchangeable with the other.

  262. SKL April 4, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    Well OK, Jennifer, let’s be objective. Sell your car and don’t ever let your kid go near a car again. Because the likelihood of being in a head-on car accident is zero if one is never in a car. That is about as objective as it gets. Objective => not a parenting decision. If you dare to argue in favor of driving, you “look like an idiot.”

    You are entitled to your OPINION about whether or not parents should rear-face until 2 or 99 or whatever. And other parents are entitled to make their own decision, beyond the point that is already law.

  263. Jennifer April 4, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    @SKL – The whole point is, some people don’t have an option not to drive. Sure, plenty of people have access to public transportation systems, but others live in cities or suburbs where, by definition, they could not survive if they didn’t drive.

    I think that everyone here (at least those who aren’t trying to be a smartass and prove an unprovable point) would agree that for the majority of those who do drive, there aren’t other ways for them to get to their job, make money, buy food, etc. No one has ever suggested that the solution here is to stop using vehicles. In fact, everyone here seems to inherently agree that the vehicles are just going to be a part of the equation, simply by skipping over that argument entirely.

    *I* never suggested on this forum that anyone needs to stay rear-facing infinitely. My only claim is that, OBJECTIVELY, rear-facing is safer up to a specific age. And anyone who says “what’s safest for you doesn’t make it safest for me” is (wrongly) turning an OBJECTIVE FACT into a SUBJECTIVE DECISION. The point is, whether you choose to turn your child around forward-facing at 9 months or 18 months, using the argument that “we’re going to do what works best for us” is suggesting that somehow your personal preference (whether it’s based on space in the car, a child who hates rear-facing, needing to purchase a new seat, etc.) overrides the scientific fact that rear-facing is safer. It doesn’t MATTER whether you have been in a crash, or somehow think you can predict whether you will be in a crash. It doesn’t MATTER whether your child is bigger for his age, smaller for his age, more mature or less mature or any other of the half-dozen arguments listed here. The FACT still remains that rear-facing is safer.

    So instead of going off on tangents, and continuing to use all sorts of fallacies to make their points, the people who have made the choice to put their child forward-facing early need to just own up. They need to say, “I know that it is not as safe. I am choosing what is best for ME, and not what is best for my child.”

    Anything else is just a bunch of false rhetoric.

  264. SKL April 4, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Jennifer, your argument assumes that the only thing that weighs into “what is best for my child” is physical safety. That’s what analyzing “in a vacuum” means. If my kids were rear-facing, they would be looking at a patch of sky for about 15-20 waking hours in a normal week, more if we were traveling. If I wanted to use your writing style, I’d say “you look like an idiot” when you argue that there’s no downside to that.

    Also, parents have stated that their children scream / puke when riding RF, and that makes it difficult for them to drive safely. You apparently believe they are lying, which further makes “you look like an idiot.” So when they decide to turn their children, how dare you declare that they are choosing to do what is NOT best for their child?

    If we were all robots, maybe I’d agree with you. But humans by nature have to respond to things on an individualized basis.

  265. Adrienne April 4, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    Wow, you guys all have a tremendous amount of data on car seats, collision and child death statisitics. Are you guys all safety expert or are you spending your free time researching car safety in the US or are you just randomly googling statistics to fuel this pretty pointless argument. I have four kids and had them rear facing for an extended amount of time. I feel confident in how I protect my children and so do you. Honestly, you can and will do whatever want with your kids, so this entire debate in silly…

  266. SKL April 4, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    BTW, Jennifer:

    “They need to say, ‘I know that it is not as safe. I am choosing what is best for ME, and not what is best for my child.’ ”

    This is exactly what offends most of us here. “You are a bad/selfish parent” or “you don’t care for your kids” because you make a different decision than I make.

  267. Nicolas April 4, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    @ Adrienne
    You put your finger on the most important point; though you get it wrong. Americans cannot “do whatever [we] want” with our kids. As Lenore consistently demonstrates, we are the custodians of our children, but they belong to the government. It takes a bureaucrat.

  268. Jennifer April 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    @SKL – My argument is that the data is showing that the difference between RF and FF is the difference between Death/serious injury (including life-long debilitating injury) and minor injury. I doubt you’d find a parent who’d agree that “being able to see the landscape” is even comparable to “being able to walk ever again”. And while I do agree that there are kids who scream/puke when riding RF, in the over 12 years that I’ve done this, and the over 10,000 (documented) children that I’ve worked with, not to mention the countless others that I’ve heard about and follow the studies and news articles for, I can guarantee that I have NEVER heard of or come across a single case of a child DYING or having a life-long debilitating injury from puking in their car seat.

    So if they are making their decision on those parameters, then yes, I’d have to declare that they are not doing what is best for their child.

  269. SKL April 5, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    Actually Jennifer, no, I still don’t think you understand my point and maybe you never will. You have a right to weigh the risks affecting your kid however you want. However, by insisting you need a car (when you could actually get a job and an apartment near each other in a safe city neighborhood if you “really cared” about 100% physical safety) you are in fact thinking the way I’m thinking, structurally.

    I turned my kids because it was not best for them, in my opinion, to stare at a patch of sky for so many of their waking hours, after their bodies were relatively sturdy compared to a wee baby, and given our extremely low risk of having a catastrophic front-impact collision.

    My kids were very good RF travelers and never complained about it. Their seats fit OK RF in my backseat and their bodies fit the seats, so buying a new seat or car was not the issue either, for me. If my kids’ mental development were not a factor, it would have been easy for me to continue RF. So no, my decision was not for “my” convenience. Just because you personally weigh risks differently than I do, that doesn’t mean your motives are higher than mine.

    Your “data comparison” argument is just like every other argument that this site fights against – being alone with Grandpa is statistically less safe than with Grandma, hence parents should keep their kids away from Grandpa – statistics say so! Falling out of trees can’t happen if you don’t let your kids near trees! Kids who are never allowed outside without a leash almost never get hit by cars! It’s all the same basic logic. In all cases, the person doing the risk/benefit analysis gives too much weight to an extremely unlikely risk. And that is the result of emotional, not objective, thinking.

  270. Jennifer T. April 5, 2011 at 1:04 am #

    My only problem would be if this recommendation became law. My daughter got car sick until her seat was turned around to front facing. I can’t turn her seat back around for the 5 months left until she turns 2 because she gets sick facing backwards.

    When this started showing up on facebook I was told I’m a bad parent for not turning her around. I was told I was lying, toddlers can’t get car sick.

    So I’m supposed to let my daughter projectile vomit all over herself 4 times a day just taking my son to and from preschool, not to mention all the other car trips in the course of a week, on the off chance I’m in an accident. She gets that car sick. Always has. I only took her to doctor appointments until she was big enough to turn around because she would vomit every time we took her anywhere. I can’t do that to her for the next 5 months.

  271. Stephanie April 5, 2011 at 2:30 am #

    Since this is just a guideline, I don’t see any problem with it. Especially in light of the fact that it increases ACTUAL safety, not just the perception of safety. Kids really are less likely to be injured, or at least are likely to have less severe injuries, in a rear-facing carseat. Someone may have already mentioned it (I’m not going to read all 250+ comments to check), but the younger a child is, the more likely they are to experience internal decapitation in a forward-facing carseat. They may be more likely to break their legs in a rear-facing carseat, but that’s a heck of a lot easier to fix. So assuming your 1-2 year old still FITS in a rear-facing carseat and doesn’t experience severe motion sickness from doing so (as Jennifer T. describes), why the heck not?

  272. Donna April 5, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    ” I have NEVER heard of or come across a single case of a child DYING or having a life-long debilitating injury from puking in their car seat.”

    Wow, you really are ridiculous and have totally defeated any prospect that I ever had of listening to your arguments.

    When I was a child there was a 100% chance that I would puke in the car if I were riding backwards. There was also a 100% chance that I would feel completely miserable from the moment I got into a car until the moment that I got out. There was less than a 1 in 1 million chance that I would suffer a serious injury/death in a car wreck on any particular car trip. Considering the amount of car riding that is done by the average kid in their life, their chances of winning the lottery are actually higher than dying in a car wreck.

    So doing the BEST for me, according to you, would have been to ignore my complete and utter misery for however long I was in the car, carry around several sets of clothes for me to change into and allow our family car to reek of puke all for less than a 1 in a million chance that we would get into a serious collision on that particular trip?

    “They need to say, “I know that it is not as safe. I am choosing what is best for ME, and not what is best for my child.”

    No, I need to say that I know that it’s not as safe but it’s still amazingly safe because the number of children who would actually be saved every year in a rear-facing car seat compared to a properly installed and used front-facing car seat is very, very small. And any advantage rear-facing car seats has over front-facing car seats is negated by my child screaming non-stop in the car, causing me to be distracted and, thus, a less safe driver more likely to get into accident injuring us and others on the road. Therefore, it would balance out that my child is equally as safe sitting quietly in a front-facing car seat (with a lower risk of me causing a car accident) as she is screaming her head off in a rear-facing car seat (with a higher risk of getting into an accident).

  273. Donna April 5, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    “Again – the RF recommendations came from nearly a decade of studying the outcomes from real-world crashes. ”

    Except that you can’t truly study real world outcomes to know the difference between rear-facing and front-facing in any particular accident. Each accident is different – different speeds, different cars, different impact zones, different structural defects in the cars, etc. You can look at a particular accident and SPECULATE that the child would have died/lived had the car seat been a different orientation. You can put the car in the lab with crash dummies and try to simulate an similar accident with the car seat in different orientations. But you can’t actually go back in time and recreate the exact same accident with the only difference being that a child was rear-facing instead of front-facing to see what the outcome would actually be for that particular accident.

    Further, you can only speculate as to the injuries to the child. You can’t consider any of the myriad of other things that goes into a decision as to what is in the best decision. Again, it is not truly safer for anyone on the road if a driver is distracted because her child is screaming non-stop. Likewise, it is not best for a child to be physically ill every second that he is in the car. It is not safe for the parent to be eating the steering wheel to give the rear-facing car seat enough room. It is not always affordable to buy a new car to fit the car seat. And, we’ll probably have a heap of adults with hip dysplasia and knee problems due to sitting criss-cross applesauce without being able to move for much of their lives in young childhood (because american kids spend a lot of time in the car).

    So, yes, the recommendations are being made in a vacuum. The recommendations are based SOLELY on the speculation as to the potential injuries to the child in the small chance of a serious car accident. They don’t consider real world problems that may effect the safety of everyone in any one particular situation. It makes its recommendation based on a perfect world in which everyone has a car that fits a rear-facing car seat while still allowing the front occupants to be a safe distance from the steering wheel, where toddlers are perfectly quiet in the car, where toddlers don’t get car sick and where the serious accident is not a rear-end collision.

    “And anyone who says “what’s safest for you doesn’t make it safest for me” is (wrongly) turning an OBJECTIVE FACT into a SUBJECTIVE DECISION. ”

    That is NOT TRUE. I don’t think anybody (other than maybe you) would argue with the fact that a screaming baby distracts the driver. I don’t think anybody would argue with the fact that a puking toddler distracts the driver. I don’t think anybody would argue with the fact that the placement of the driver’s seat impacts visibility. I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that a distracted driver is more likely to get into an accident. I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that decreased visibility increases the likelihood of an accident. Finally, I don’t think anyone would actually disagree with the fact that your chances of suffering injuries related to a car accident increase when you increase the risk of actually getting into a car accident. Ergo, it may very well be OBJECTIVELY that a child is safer in a front-facing car seat in a car with a non-distracted driver with full visibility than he is in a rea-facing car seat with a distracted driver who can’t see worth a damn.

  274. ASL April 6, 2011 at 1:49 am #

    Here’s what’s wrong with so much of the analysis here — the same folks who launch into diatribes about how important it is to snap up the newest and most expensive car seat are the people who choose to live in sidewalkless suburbs and speed through my urban residential neighborhood at 50 mph on their way to work.

    My kid walks (gets strollered) to day care, sing alongs, play dates, and the market. He gets in the car maybe 2-3 times per week, usually for a trip to the grandparents’ (no, I do not live in New York City). I bought a rear-facing seat that goes to 4 pounds but the best thing I’m doing for him to protect him from a car accident is (TADA!) keeping him out of the car as much as possible. I am NOT saying that you’re a bad parent if you drive places but, if we really cared about traffic safety, we’d stop sitting in it so much.

  275. pentamom April 6, 2011 at 3:31 am #

    Donna — bravo!

  276. Miven Trageser April 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    I wrote on this topic in a while ago but my basic research holds up today and the way I considered the trade-offs between freedom and ‘safety’ still has to happen. It’s a balance as Lenore keeps demonstrating:

  277. Tom Holcomb April 6, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Here are some staggering numbers from 2009:

    *There were just shy of three TRILLION miles driven in America that year.
    *There were 6,770 fatalities to passengers (as any child in a car seat would be) during those three trillion miles.
    *There were 430 fatalities of kids aged less than five.

    So let’s do some math here. Assuming an equal distribution of age among the sub-five-year-old children (a more than fair assumption, as I would think a four year old would need to be driven around a lot more than a one year old), that means that there were 129 fatalities of children aged between 12 months and 30 months in 2009. Which means that, if forward facing children are 75% more likely to die in a crash than rear facing children, 47 of those kids were rearward facing, and 82 of those kids were facing forward.

    260 million registered vehicles.
    33,808 total traffic fatalities.
    6,770 passenger fatalities.
    EIGHTY-TWO front facing dead children aged one year to two and a half years. Tops.

    So for any given mile you drive with your kid in the car facing forward, you have a roughly one in 37 billion chance of your kid dying.

    In other words, it would take a 187 mile drive with your forward facing 1 to 2.5 year-old child to give you the same odds of that child dying as you would have of winning the Powerball jackpot with a $1 ticket.

    Even if you drive 10,000 miles with your child facing forward, you still only have a 1:3.7 million chance of killing your child with this decision (compared to 1:1.2 million for rear facing) over the course of this entire period.

    From reading half the comments here you’d assume that a child will spontaneously explode from just TOUCHING a car! I have a 3 month old at home. When he gets old enough to face forward, if this is something that will improve his life in the car or ours, I’ll not hesitate to do it. He’s far more likely to die of pneumonia than he’ll ever be of dying in my car. There’s just not bubble wrap that we could wrap them in that would be thick enough to protect them from everything, and odds so astronomical I can’t comprehend them just leave me rolling my eyes.

  278. antsy April 7, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    Another bravo for you, Donna!

    I don’t argue that carseats aren’t safer, but they aren’t always a miracle device either.
    My friend’s toddler niece was paralyzed in a car wreck – it was blamed on her carseat design (something to do with the “wings” on the sides of the head) Apparently, the dummy tests didn’t predict that. Maybe she would have died if she hadn’t been in that carseat, but maybe she would have had serious, but less permanent injuries.

    I do argue against carseat LAWS, although recommendations and safety information is welcome. Once when I was a young Mom with just a couple of little ones, I thought carseat laws were great. Now I have seven children, and the laws keep getting more and more restrictive so that I have given up. Other large families I know have given up also. Whenever a friend needs help with transportation for her kids I agree to help, even though I do not have all the boosters and carseats I am supposed to have. Once I broke the law by squeezing a stranded mother and two small children in my already packed car.

    Keep your own child rear-facing as long as you like. As long as this is just a recommendation and parents get to decide what is right for their own particular situations, all is good. I do worry that working for a law will be the next step. Do you know some people are working for a kind of seatbelt law for dogs?

  279. BMS April 7, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    I remember a situation like that antsy. I was at a park with a friend and her kids. I had walked there (10 minutes or so) with my kids, she had driven. While we were there a thunderstorm developed. Pouring, driving rain, lightning, thunder – think Noah’s flood here. She offered me a ride home, and I took it. Yes it meant that (gasp) my kids were not in car seats. Heck, my little one was on my lap in the front seat. However, I felt that the chances of us getting in a car wreck during that 5 minutes were pretty slim. The chances of us getting completely soaked and/or struck by lightning, or hit by a car crossing the street who couldn’t see us in the rain were a lot higher. Clearly, not something I would do every day. But in a similar situation, I would probably do it again.

  280. Tom Holcomb April 7, 2011 at 5:10 am #

    Lenore, my statistics come straight from the NHTSA (

    Also, I’d like to correct a little math error: in my second to last paragraph I wrote that rear facing kids would have a 1:1.2 million chance of dying in 10,000 miles of driving. Obviously, the odds of that kid dying should be LOWER than if he were forward facing, not higher. (Eleventh hour into a 12 hour night shift. I get one mulligan, right?) The correct number would be 1:6.5 million for rear facing.

  281. buffy April 7, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    So much for the EPIDEMIC of children DYING, huh Tom?

  282. Jennifer April 9, 2011 at 4:42 am #

    They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I say you never get a second chance to make the right choice. Whether the chance is one in 7 billion or 1 in 1 depends on the day, the time, the situation. Frankly, every time I get into a vehicle or put my children in one, I do so with the knowledge that THAT RIDE could be the one that ends with a crash. And whether you post a million pieces of data or none at all, it still remains a fact that car crashes are the MOST LIKELY thing to kill my child, and one of the MOST LIKELY to cause serious injury. So yeah, I’m going to do the absolute maximum to protect my child every single time they ride in the car. And I don’t consider any of it ‘helicopter’ or ‘over’parenting.

    Most people I know get on my case because I let my kids play outside, generally unsupervised. I let my kids bicycle to the park a mile away…by themselves! (gasp). My 14 year old has been babysitting his 3 younger siblings since he was 11. I do leave my kids in the car when I run into the store, and have since my oldest was about 7 years old. Sometimes I EVEN leave the car running. My kids explore the woods and stream behind our house, climb trees, visit neighbors, and roam without supervision all the time. The neighbors give me “that look”, my in-laws constantly take me to task, and my grown siblings all see me as some sort of careless parent. Funny, but those same people don’t give a damn about how their kids get strapped (or not) into the car. Somehow, I think that my kids will come out not only surviving and injury-free, but much more independent and happy than all those other kids. EVEN THOUGH they all stayed rear-facing in their car seats until they were over 4 years old. EVEN THOUGH they all stayed in a harnessed seat until they were at least 8 years old (some still are harnessed, and one stayed that way until he was 10 because he couldn’t stay sitting correctly in a booster). EVEN THOUGH they stayed in booster seats until (gasp! again) they fit the seat belt (which was several months past his 13th birthday for my oldest son). Funny – they didn’t complain. They didn’t ‘hate’ me for it, or feel embarrassed when their friends snidely said “why are you still in a booster seat?” In fact, the last time that happened, with my still-boostered 11-year-old, he said to his friend “Why AREN’T YOU still in a booster?” and proceeded to explain to his friend what happens if you are in a crash and your seat belt doesn’t fit correctly. And the kid went home and apparently talked to his mom, because the next day she called me and wanted to know why her son thinks he needs a booster seat.

    It’s funny how kids can sometimes be smarter than adults.

  283. Donna April 9, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    “And whether you post a million pieces of data or none at all, it still remains a fact that car crashes are the MOST LIKELY thing to kill my child”

    Actually even that is a false statistic. While MV accidents are the SINGLE leading cause of death (and only top birth defects by 3 kids in 2002), they still only account for approximately 11% of the deaths of children between ages 1 and 4. Therefore, if your child is going to die between ages 1-4, he is more likely to die of something other than a car accident. Since all the other accidents total add up to 22%, he is even more likely to die of some accident other than a car accident than he is to die in a car accident. He is almost as likely to die by homicide as to die in a car wreck.

    Compare that to the 15-19 age group in which almost 40% of the deaths are attributed to car accidents, with the next closest cause of death (homicide) being only 13.7%.

  284. Erin April 13, 2011 at 2:09 am #

    Sorry – all four of my kids had feet right up against the seat at 11.5 months old. Enough is enough. I even dislike the booster seat argument because all of the seat belts in our van are adjustable to lay properly on the child.

    We simply cannot protect against every freaking possibility. Parents are the parents. Let them be the parents!!

  285. Leah April 29, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    OK, I’m going to join the minority here. It is completely unreasonable to expect that any of us can drive around in huge steel contraptions at high rates of speed and NOT die. The fact that we often don’t is amazing, not “required”. I have no wish to die, nor do I want to unduly risk my child’s life, but I have to drive, as i am not Amish and I’m not so sure about the safety of those buggies, either.

    Here’s an interesting idea proposed by one of my better Economics professors, weld a dagger onto the center of the steering wheel pointing directly at the driver’s chest. That should drop the accident rate to zero pretty darn quick.

  286. Jan August 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    The Swedish don;t let their 9 year old play football either. Just saying. I remember when the station wagon had a rear facing back seat but it was said that IT was dangerous. Am I missing something?

  287. Jan August 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    Donna you are right we need a car seat designed to protect 15 to 19 year olds. PS it needs to have a phone jamming device built in if it is a rear facing driver seat for those teens with a license who drive themselves to school


  1. Rear-Facing Car Seats and Safety | - March 30, 2011

    […] recent dictum that children should be kept in rear-facing car seats until age 2. Personally, […] FreeRangeKids Related Posts:Frustrated in FloridaBeware the VulturesThe (Updated, Safer!) Cat in the HatA […]

  2. Top Posts — - March 31, 2011

    […] Rear-Facing Car Seats and Safety — Updated! Hi Readers: There is so much to ponder in this amazing column from the Herald-Mail in Maryland titled, “When It Comes […] […]