While the convenience of moving growing children from rear-facing car seats to front-facing is tempting, it's a potentially unsafe move. Research shows that children in rear-facing seats are more than five times safer than those riding in forward-facing seats, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In fact, recent studies have shown that children under the age of two who ride in rear-facing seats are 75 percent less likely to die or suffer major injury during a collision (previous recommendations suggested moving children to front-facing seats at age one).
Next week is Child Passenger Safety Week and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) encourages families to learn about the importance of correct installation of car safety seats. "We know proper seat belt fit helps save lives, one family at a time," says Fran Mayko, a child passenger safety seat technician at the Automobile Club of America (AAA).
And if you've just had a new baby, the non-profit organization Kids in Safety Seats has some tips to keep your newborn safe while he or she rides in an automobile.
* Make sure the car seat is rear facing and is positioned at the correct angle (see manufacturer's recommendations). In a crash, a rear-facing baby will be propelled into the back of the car seat, which can minimize whiplash.
* Tighten the harness so it has no more than one inch of give.
* Refrain from dressing your child in too much outerwear while he or she is constrained in a car seat, as the restraints should fit snugly to the child and not his or her clothing.
* Remove any hanging toys from the car seat handle because in the event of a crash, they can turn into dangerous projectiles.