So, 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
Children’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!
– 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.