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Forward Facing Car Seats: Convenient but Dangerous?

Last May, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its car seat safety recommendations and suggested that children ride in rear-facing car seats until the age of two. Rear-facing seats provide better protection to the head, neck, and spine in the event of a Georgia car crash.


The recommendation is not a legal requirement. Many convertible car seats are labeled to say that they may be used in a forward-facing position by children over 20 pounds or one year of age. However, research shows that children under age two are 75% more likely to be injured if their seat is forward-facing.


Why? Peachtree auto accident attorney Shane Smith explains.


Young children have large heads in relation to their body size. Their necks and spines are not fully developed. When a forward-facing child is involved in an Atlanta car accident, his head is pushed forward with enough force to break the neck, injure the spinal cord, and cause severe head injuries. A rear-facing seat protects the head and keeps it in place so the force of the crash is spread over the entire body.


Despite the safety advantage, parents are not following AAP's recommendations. Many parents remember riding in cars with no seat belt or car seat in the '70s and '80s. They believe that the risk of injury is exaggerated. However, since car seats have become mandatory, there has been a 71 percent reduction in car accident fatalities in infants less than one year of age. Car crash fatality rates for children ages one to four have dropped by 54 percent.


Many parents eagerly look forward to changing a child's car seat to a front-facing position soon after the toddler's first birthday. They find the front-facing position more convenient and say that children are happier and, therefore, safer when they can see where they are going.


Parents also worry that children will be uncomfortable if the child's legs are folded up against the seat. Some parents wonder if this puts the child at risk of a broken leg.


Because children are more flexible than adults, they can sit comfortably with their legs folded for long periods of time. In addition, leg injuries are actually more common in forward-facing children. But, leg injuries in general are far less serious and less likely to be fatal than neck, spinal cord and head injuries.


Experts suggest keeping children rear-facing until they reach the height and weight limit for their car seat. Some child safety seats are designed to be used in a rear-facing position with children up to 45 pounds; this is the average weight of a five year old. However, not all car seats are safe at this limit. Check your car seat's manual to learn when your child should be faced forward.


If your child was injured in an Atlanta auto accident, request a free copy of our book, 10 Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Georgia Wreck Case. This book will help you protect your child's injury claim. If you would like to discuss the accident with a Peachtree auto accident attorney, contact the Law Offices of Shane Smith at 770-HURT-999.


Shane Smith
Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia