According to the Centers for Disease Control, car crashes are a leading cause of death and injury for kids, but many of these catastrophes can be prevented with the proper use of child safety seats. The CDC reports that car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants younger than 1 by a whopping 71 percent, and to toddlers 1 to 4 years old by 54 percent. Keeping your child in a rear-facing child safety seat until at least his or her second birthday is the safest place for him or her in the car, ensuring fragile heads and necks are protected in an impact, but a new study suggests that many parents aren’t following this rule.
Related: NHTSA Recommends Kids Stay in Car Seats, Boosters Longer
In a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study, close to 75 percent of parents reported they turned the seat around before their child was 2 years old. In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new recommendation that children stay in rear-facing seats until their second birthday or they reach the weight/height limit of the seat, but parents cited several reasons for making the switch earlier: the perception their children are too large, the desire to see their children when driving and a greater ease of removing their children from a forward-facing seat.
Lead author of the study, Michelle L. Macy of the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, says delaying the switch can make a big difference; in Sweden, for example, children up to age 4 are in rear-facing seats and child traffic fatalities are among the lowest in the world.
“Getting parents to delay the transition to a forward-facing seat still represents an opportunity to improve passenger safety in the U.S.,” Macy said in a statement. Another opportunity is to ensure your child is in the right seat. According to the UMTRI, 20 percent percent of 1- to 3-year-olds and nearly half of 4- to 7-year-olds do not use the recommended restraint for their age. Click here to learn more about choosing the right seat.
Cars.com photo by Evan Sears