Monday, March 21, 2011

Extended Rear Facing Car Seats - the "Orphan Seat"

Among car seat safety experts it is common knowledge that babies and toddlers are safest staying in a  rear-facing car seat as long as possible, and an article in today's New York Times Health section tries to bring that message to a broader audience. The article states that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced that they advise parents to keep toddlers in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years old.

Many guidelines tell parents they can turn a car seat around to be forward facing when a child is 1 year old and weighs 20 pounds, but parents do not realize that just because they can does not mean they should. Lots of parents like the idea of turning the car seat forward facing for lots of reasons (easier getting child in and out, can see child from front seat, child seems less cramped, etc.). However, like so many other parenting decisions, the more convenient option is also the less safe option (see my post on drop-side cribs).

Rear-Facing Car Seat
Because babies have weak necks and large heads if they are in a serious accident their heads are thrown forwards and their necks can often snap. On the other hand, if they are facing the back of the car (rear-facing) the force of the accident is mostly absorbed by the car seat.

If you are trying to decide when to turn your child's car seat to forward-facing check out this video on Youtube: "The Importance of Rear-Facing" and cut to time 1:30 when they show a crash test with a forward facing and rear facing car seat.

For me the most striking passage in the NYT article is a quote from a pediatrician, Dr. Baer, who says:
“It’s a horrible term,” she said, “but E.M.T.’s call the rear-facing seat ‘the orphan seat’ because in a bad car accident, that child is often the only one who survives."

Here is some more information about the greater safety of extended rear-facing: Rear-Facing Safety
For more information see my earlier blog post on installing car seats, and advice on getting a car seat safety inspection.


  1. I agree, rear-faced seats lessen the impact of the collision, and these are also designed to protect the baby’s backbone. These seats help a lot, but we can be surer if we stress the importance of safe and defensive driving too. Crash tests can only do so much, but when we are on the steering wheel, we are on our own.


  2. Watching the video made me realize how important and how better it is for our children to stay in a rear-facing car seat. Parents should familiarize themselves with this one as well because it’s really opposite from what we presume to be the proper way of keeping our kids in a safe position. I might as well share this to everyone!