Rear-facing car seats: New safety laws would help reduce chance of kids getting hurtSo, what difference does it make if a child’s car seat is rear-facing or forward-facing? A profound difference, it turns out. Studies have shown that children in their second year of life are five times less likely to die or be seriously injured in a crash if they are restrained in rear-facing car seats.

That’s why advocacy groups like Safe Kids Wisconsin — of which Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is the lead agency — are partnering with local legislators to bring the state’s child passenger safety requirements up to date. During National Child Passenger Safety Week in September, new bipartisan legislation was introduced that would require kids to be in rear-facing car seats until age 2, instead of the current standards of 1 year old and weighing 20 pounds. The proposed legislation aligns with the recommendation of several groups at the forefront of children’s health and safety research, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Why rear-facing car seats are safer

Why are rear-facing car seats such a safer option for kids this age? Infants’ heads are proportionally large for their bodies, and an injury to their head and early developing spine is more likely to occur if they are not properly restrained. In a forward-facing seat, a child’s head will thrust toward the front of the vehicle during a crash. But in a rear-facing seat, the back of the child restraint will cradle the child and protect his or her vulnerable head and neck. Rear-facing seats also discourage parents from turning around to engage with their child, which distracts their attention from the road and can increase the likelihood of an accident.

Car safety dos and don’ts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, car accidents are a leading cause of injuries and death among children in the U.S. Many of these occur as a result of the improper use of car and booster seats.

What can you do to protect your child during car rides? For starters, consider the following:

  • Buy the right car seat. Be sure your child meets the right height and weight requirements, and don’t forget to check things like the car seat’s crash test and overall safety ratings
  • Double-check that your car seat is properly installed. If in doubt, have your car inspected by a certified technician
  • Be mindful of loose items that may shift during a crash. Avoid sharp or heavy objects that could injure a child
  • Most importantly, stay focused on the road at all times. Safe driving is the easiest and most effective way to protect all passengers

How you can help advocate for Wisconsin’s kids

Sign up for Children’s Advocacy NetworkChildren’s Hospital of Wisconsin is committed to advocating for kids, because too often they do not have a voice in our country’s legislative process. For the proposed new car seat legislation and countless other bills that affect Wisconsin kids to pass, it’s crucial that parents and other child advocates get involved and express their support. One way to do this is by joining the Children’s Advocacy Network (CAN), Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s statewide coalition dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Wisconsin children and families.

A letter or phone call to your local legislator can make all the difference in making sure this bill is passed, and CAN helps make that process easy and efficient. Join CAN today to stand up for Wisconsin’s kids!

Libby Slavin– Libbe Slavin, coordinator, Safe Kids Wisconsin

A member of Safe Kids Worldwide, Safe Kids Wisconsin works to prevent accidental injuries, the leading cause of death among children 14 years of age and younger. The coalition combines the expertise of Safe Kids coalitions and chapters statewide to prevent childhood injuries through collaboration, education, policy and advocacy initiatives. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is its lead agency.


Rear-facing car seats: New safety laws would help reduce chance of kids getting hurt — 3 Comments

  1. I do not agree with this. What amazes me is that the rear facing infant seat was originally designed for the ease of mom seeing what is wrong with the child, let mom put the bottle or pacifier back in the baby’s mouth, etc. If you have a 14 month old, that is choking on food while in a rear facing car seat in the back seat, the driver would not know if the child was choking. They likely would be silent, and dead before the driver came to know they were choking. Not to mention, they would be more apt to get car seat, and cannot see as well what they are passing by. When my son was 2, he was in a seat, I stopped fast for a train, and his head only came forward and hit the back of the front seat. My doctor wrote a waiver I kept in the car, that he was to ride in only the seat belt from then on. His hole face turned black and blue. All the baby boomers grew up with the metal over the front seat forward facing, and it seems that this is a generation that is mostly still living. To be truthful, we should attack the real problem, TERRIBLE DRIVERS.

  2. Debbie, these better car seats and car seat laws were put into place for all of the baby boomers that did not live through car accidents. All of your comments about not seeing the child are obsolete because there are mirrors that get mounted to the head rest that allow parents to check on the kids when safely stopped. My son is 1.5 and has plenty to look at since he can see out the sides of the car and the back, and the front in the mirror. Your son’s face slammed into the back of your seat and you had a note saying he should not be in any seat? I don’t follow but car seats are incredibly safe, I have never heard of kids slamming into headrests in them, so maybe your son would have been better off in one.

  3. Thank you all for the great feedback! The first real car seats were developed in the 1960s in response to physician protests for occupant protection. The advances in technology over the decades with these seats are all based on extensive research and review of real-life crashes — including the ones mentioned with children thrusting forward and hitting the seat in front of them. The top tether strap on car seats today limit the movement on a forward-facing car seat so the child doesn’t hit the vehicle seat in front of them. While we can’t control every driver on the road, we are able to protect those in our own vehicle with enhanced vehicle safety features and devices, including car seats.