Car Seat Safety: When Should Your Child Turn Forward-Facing?

Diono Radianrxt Rf Baby
Photo courtesy of Diono
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain in a rear-facing car seat until age 2.

Celeb mom Kim Kardashian heard a lot of hate feedback when she posted a picture of her 1-year-old son, Saint, buckled into a car seat. What riled everyone up? He’s facing forward in his car seat. Oh no! The law in California State Highway Patrol website states that a child must be age 2 (which Saint will be in December 2017) or 40 pounds or 40 inches tall before riding forward-facing in a car seat.

North Carolina law does not specify the age at which a seat can be forward-facing, however the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain in a rear-facing seat until age 2.

We spoke to Allana Pinkerton, a Global Safety Advocate for diono, a car seat manufacturer, to get the lowdown on why it is considered safer for children under age 2 to remain rear-facing.

“When it comes to car crashes, many factors keep children safer and help prevent serious injury. The most vulnerable occupant in a vehicle is a child, especially babies and toddlers who are still developing and whose bones have not yet fused together and are not strong enough to withstand brutal forces. Keeping a child rear-facing as long as possible helps keep them safer in all types of collisions.” Pinkerton says.

“Simply put, the back of the car seat totally supports the head, neck and spinal column during a frontal crash. Even most side impacts have a frontal component to them and therefore, the shell of the seat protects approximately the same way for frontal crashes,” Pinkerton continues. “The rear-facing reclined position distributes forces much differently than a forward-facing car seat in a rear-end collision. Even so, the rear-facing child rides downs the car crash safer than if they were forward-facing.”

What if your rear-facing car seat is too small for your growing toddler?

“Most parents are concerned their child is uncomfortable rear-facing or their legs are too long and might break in a crash,” Pinkerton says. “On the contrary, statistics shows more children suffer head and leg injuries when they are forward-facing, especially taller children who can end up kicking their legs or hitting their head on the seat in front of them. Children’s muscular tissue, tendons and bones are more flexible and therefore, they do not experience discomfort when riding rear-facing.”

Bottom line? It’s safer for your child to remain rear-facing until age 2. “If you can make it to birthday No. 3, even better,” Pinkerton says. “One more year and you are giving your child the optimal protection.”

However, be sure you do not exceed the maximum height and weight of the car seat. Check your manufacturer’s manual for more information and guidelines.