“This is silly,” another wrote. “It would also increase safety to wrap kids in bubble wrap.”
Even parents at safety seat inspections held this month during Child Passenger Safety Week said they worry that the protests of rear-facing toddlers will lead to distracted driving and that little legs folded or scrunched up against back seats will be uncomfortable or unsafe.
Gail Provizer-Simmons of Rockville said she researched the safest minivan to buy and makes sure that her grandchildren are buckled up. But she said she had to turn her 3-year-old grandson’s seat forward when he was 10 months old “or his legs would have been through the back of the seat.”
“I honestly don’t know how this is going to work,” Provizer-Simmons said recently at a Fitzgerald auto dealership’s
safety seat inspection in North Bethesda.
She pointed to her 8-month-old granddaughter, Emma Railey, sleeping in a rear-facing infant seat, her tiny feet almost touching the back of the seat. “Where are you supposed to put the kids’ legs?”
Safety experts say their recommendation on rear-facing car seats will require a more concerted public-awareness campaign for several reasons.
Keeping children in rear-facing seats longer can seem counterintuitive to parents, many of whom have come to consider turning the safety seat around as a first-birthday rite of passage.
Unlike in Sweden, where safety seats are designed to provide adequate leg room for rear-facing children up to age 4, U.S. safety seats are made to fit snugly against the back of the vehicle seat, leaving little room for growing limbs. Not to be discounted, safety experts say, is the particularly difficult developmental phase of the children affected: squirmy toddlers who resist being confined in safety seats facing in any direction.
“I don’t think we’ve done an adequate job of explaining to parents why their child needs to be rear-facing,” said Dennis Durbin, who is a doctor, lead author of the pediatric group’s recommendation and co-director of theCenter for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“I think if more parents understood why it’s safer,” Durbin said, “most would gladly delay” turning car seats around.
The latest recommendation is not a legal requirement, though safety seat advocates say state laws often lag behind what they consider best practices.
No state requires that children sit in rear-facing seats after having their first birthday or reaching a weight of 20 pounds, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The District and many states, including Maryland and Virginia, require that children up to age 8 be “properly restrained,” according to the manufacturer’s instructions, in a harnessed car seat or belt-positioning booster seat. All manufacturers of convertible safety seats — the kind that can be rear- or forward-facing — say in the instructions that the seat must be rear-facing until the child reaches 1 year and 20 or 22 pounds, local officials said.