The best holiday gift of all
YouTube might be many things to many people, but to my Pumpkin, it just might be a lifesaver if we are ever in a car crash.
That’s because, like most parents, I had planned to switch my daughter to a forward-facing convertible car seat once she reached 20 pounds. That weight and reaching 1 year of age is the minimum requirement to turn a baby around. But after I watched this video on YouTube, I changed my mind. I hope this post will change yours, too, if you have a toddler who weighs between 20 and 33 pounds.
The excellent video highlights the advice of child safety experts who are in agreement that rear-facing is the safest position. It also includes three crash-test videos that show how dramatically different are the experiences of toddlers in rear- and front-facing seats. The crash test dummy facing the rear moves hardly at all, while the dummy facing forward has really scary head and spine movements. “I know we’d like to be able to turn around and see Madison’s pretty face in the backseat but her safety just isn’t worth the risk,” says the author of the video.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission says rear-facing is the safest position a child can ride in. On this terrific resource page, the commision notes: “Children should not be turned forward-facing until they reach the maximum rear-facing limits of a convertible seat.”
This next part is very important information that I had no clue about:
“While most parents are aware that they must keep their children rear-facing ‘until they are AT LEAST 1 year old AND 20 lbs,’ very few are told that there are significant safety benefits when a child remains rear-facing as long as the seat allows. For most children, rear-facing can and should continue well into the second year of life.”
Rear-facing car seats protect children from the most common and dangerous type of crash: the front-end collision. Rear-end collisions account for just 4 percent of crashes. What’s worse, the force of a front-end crash is much greater. The commission said a frontal crash is the same as hitting a concrete barrier.
An organization called Car-Safety.org has a great explanation of the physical forces involved in a front-end crash on its Web site. This stuck out to me: “In a serious frontal crash with a front-facing carseat, the head and legs of the child are thrown forward like a rag doll, and serious forces are put on the child’s spinal cord.”
The organization also gives some important assurance for parents worried about keeping their kids rear-facing: “Rear-facing carseats are NOT a safety risk just because a baby’s legs are bent at the knees or because they can touch/kick the vehicle seat.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees: “If a car safety seat accommodates children rear facing to higher weights, for optimal protection, the child should remain rear facing until reaching the maximum weight for the car safety seat.”
Reading about all of this influenced which car seat I bought for Pumpkin, now that she’s nearly too big for her Graco SnugRide. I ended up buying the Britax Boulevard, which is the top-of-the-line rear-facing model. (It’s the car seat pictured above.) It was not inexpensive (about $299), but I thought about all the money we spend on things so much less important than Pumpkin’s safety, and I felt this would be the best Christmas gift I could give her. So, under the tree this year, from me anyway, she has a pretty modest haul of some books, a wood puzzle, a CD and a stuffed toy. But down in our foyer, waiting to be installed in our car, is the best gift I can give her: safety.