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Car safety: What parents need to know about car seats

So, what difference does it make if a child’s car seat is rear-facing or forward-facing? A big difference, in fact. Using the correct car or booster seat can help decrease the risk of death or serious injury by more than 70 percent. That’s why car seat safety is constantly being evaluated and laws being updated.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently published an update to its child passenger safety policy statement to encourage parents and caregivers to keep their children in rear facing seats longer. The AAP recommends children remain rear facing until they reach the weight or height limit allowed by their seat, no matter their age. Previously, the recommendation was to have children in rear facing car seats until age 2.

Why rear-facing car seats are safer

Why are rear-facing car seats such a safer option for kids this age? Infants’ and toddlers’ heads are large compared to their bodies, and an injury to their developing head and spine is more likely to occur if they are not properly restrained in a rear-facing seat. In a forward-facing seat, a child’s head will thrust toward the front of the vehicle during a crash. But in a rear-facing seat, the child restraint will cradle the child and better protect their vulnerable head and neck. While many parents have concerns about leg room, rear-facing seats actually provide support for a child’s legs and is often more comfortable.

Car safety dos

  • What can you do to protect your child during car rides? For starters, consider the following:
  • Buy the right car seat. Be sure your child meets the right height and weight requirements. Convertible car seats allow children to ride rear facing longer as they have higher height and weight limits than rear-facing only car seats, which are also known as infant seats.
  • Double-check that your car seat is properly installed. If in doubt, have your car seat inspected by a certified technician.
  • Be mindful of loose items that may shift during a crash. Secure loose objects that would injure a child if a crash or hard brake occurred.
  • Buckle up and stay focused on the road at all times. Modeling safe driving helps establish habits for your children as they grow up.

How you can help advocate for Wisconsin’s kids

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is committed to advocating for kids, because too often they do not have a voice in our legislative process. For new car seat legislation and other bills that affect Wisconsin kids, it’s crucial that parents and other child advocates get involved and express their support. One way to do this is by joining the Children’s Advocacy Network (CAN), Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s statewide coalition dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Wisconsin children and families.

A letter or phone call to your local legislator can make all the difference in making sure important bills are passed, and CAN helps make that process easy and efficient. Join CAN today to stand up for Wisconsin’s kids!