Parents: Tips On Rear-Facing Car Seats

September 21, 2011

During National Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 18-24), it’s an appropriate time for parents to brush up on guidelines for rear-facing car seats. With car crashes the leading cause of death for children ages three to fourteen, the importance of using rear-facing child seats cannot be overstated.

The objective is to keep children safe in the car and research shows that rear-facing child seats are five times safer for toddlers than riding in a forward-facing car seat. But many parents still aren’t getting the message.

In the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health released in May 2011, the results were quite revealing. Seventy-three percent of parents responding to the survey said they had switched their child from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat before the age of two.  And one in three, 30 percent, turned their child’s seat to face forward before the child reached one year of age.

The report also found that parents use a variety of sources for information about when to use forward-facing car seats. Most (72 percent) refer to the car seat packaging for advice on when to turn their child’s car seat to face forward. Two-thirds (68 percent) get information from a doctor or a nurse. About half of parents receive information from national sources such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the American Academy of Pediatrics, or family or friends (52 percent) on when is the right time to turn their child’s car seat to a forward-facing position.

Read the full C.S. Mott report here.

Tips about rear-facing car seats

Child passenger safety experts now recommend that parents keep their infants and toddlers in rear-facing car seats as long as possible. They caution that it is easy to get confused, since car seat instructions often say that the car seat can be used forward-facing when the child reaches 20 pounds. That doesn’t mean, however, that the car seat should be used this way, if the child is still under the height and weight limits to remain riding in the rear-facing position.

Most children will outgrow their rear-facing infant carrier type of car seat before their first birthday. Again, the experts advise caution. Just because the child outgrows a rear-facing seat doesn’t mean that it is okay to turn the infant to face forward. The best next step is to get a convertible car seat that is larger and can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing.

Newborns weighing at least five pounds can start off in a convertible car seat in the rear-facing position. If household finances are tight, parents can skip the infant carrier and opt for a convertible car seat that can be used from birth into pre-school years. Many newer model convertible car seats can hold larger infants and toddlers rear-facing beyond their second birthday, until they reach a weight of 35 or 40 pounds.

Take advantage of the free car seat check during National Child Passenger Safety Week. Find a local inspection station by going to or by clicking on this link. Parents can also get information from local inspection stations on community resources offering assistance in obtaining the proper car seats for their children.

Resources for parents

Still confused about which car seat to use or how to install it? Take advantage of helpful tips and resources available in a number of websites. provides tips and tools, links to learn about state child passenger safety laws, and a convenient car seat inspection locator available by zip code. Parents can also call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK to find a local inspection station.

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