This was posted by a grandfather at one of my car seat boards. It is a very sad story indeed, and explains exactly why rear facing past the bare minimums is so important.

First, meet Joel:

PLEASE, for your childrens sake, consider leaving them in REAR-FACING (RF) car seats as longs as you can. Although it is "suggested" by many people and organizations, that you can turn them forward facing at 1 yr/20 lbs, and seats are made to accommodate that, it doesn’t mean they will not be subjected to cervical spine injuries in an accident. Sure, it’ll hold their body in place, as it did for my grandson. But their head is thrown violently forward!! Actually, if you do your homework, front facing children "75% more likely to be injured" in a crash ( ).

I am Grandpa, and here’s my personal view. My 18 mo old grandson, Joel, was injured in a front impact car crash 4 weeks ago. He is a "beefy" boy, weighing in at 34lbs and about 39" tall. According to his mom, the doctor told her it was "okay" to put him in a front facing car seat, because he was a "big boy". So she did. And he was securely strapped in the rear seat. The car hit a tree, for reasons unknown, at city speed limit of approx 35 mph.

At the accident scene, the EMT crew took Joel out of the car while in the car seat and all, and transported him to the hospital. They had to "bag" him at the scene to restart his breathing. The true miracle is that the ambulance was driving by, and some people flagged it down. They didn’t even get time to call 911. You can bet God had his hand in that!!! they were on the scene in about 60 seconds!!

Below are some photos of Joel, before and after. YOU decide whats best for your child.......not anyone else!!! He sustained dislocated top 2 vertebrae in his spine (C-1 & C-2). Some of the doctors put it in very simple terms...his skull, internally, became detached from his body... and was basically held on with his skin.

In the last few weeks, I’ve scoured the internet to find these facts:

* a young child’s head is approx 25% of his/her bodyweight. If that were true of adults, my head (I’m 220 pounds) would weigh 55 pounds! As it is, an adults head is only about 6% of their body weight. So, kids are very top-heavy.

* Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland recommend rear facing until 4 yrs old

* look on You Tube at the crash test videos of front facing vs. rear facing. you’ll be amazed.

YouTube Crash Tests

Rear facing:

Forward facing:

See how much farther forward the forward facing dummy is thrown? How violently the neck snaps?

* if a young childs spine is "stretched" a 1/4 of an inch, it could result in total paralysis or death.

* and this is amazing! There was an article published in Pediatrics (the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) earlier this year that states: "A recent analysis of the protection provided in rear-facing compared with forward-facing car safety seats has revealed that children under the age of 2 years are 75% less likely to die or sustain serious injury when they are in a rear-facing seat. This finding was true regardless of direction of the crash, even those crashes with side impact, which typically are the most severe.

"Parents may be helped to understand the importance of using the convertible car safety seat in the rear-facing position longer than 1 year if they are counseled that children are 5 times safer than when riding in a forward-facing seat into the second year of life."

After hearing about that, I contacted the AAP via email, and asked what their position is on this issue. Their response was "While this was published in the Academy’s journal, it does not necessarily constitute AAP policy" and "Because riding rear-facing does provide significantly more protection to children’s heads, necks, and spines, the Academy does recommend it for as long as possible, but the only minimum we have set is 12 months/20 pounds. This policy statement is under revision but is current at this time."

The policy statement is under revision.... at this time??

Do you’re home work folks!!! Oh, and you’ll also find out that in the USA, rear facing seats only go up to 30-35 pounds (depends on manufacturer). In Europe, whose testing standards seem to exceed US standards, the RF car seats can be purchased up to 55 pounds. AND, made by the same manufacturers as in the US.

So, the question is, why can’t we get them?? And don’t worry about legroom, check out these larger RF seats:

Sure, they can break a leg in a violent crash, but I think bones are easier to fix than a broken neck!!! Heck, it’s better to mount a portable CD player in the back window shelf and let them watch it, then to risk their life! Think about it....their body is strapped down to a car seat that is strapped down, and the car comes to an abrupt stop!! Where is their head going to go? FORWARD, and at a tremedous velocity!! The back of their neck/spinal cord is vulnerable to serious injury.

But the BIG question is....... for you to decide. I know you want to see their darling faces. But you don’t want to see them in a halo.

I know this is a very long blog, but if it saves one child...or one family, the agony of what we’ve endured these last 4 weeks, it is worth the read!! The pics below are about six weeks apart. he was eating cake by himself....very cute.

And now, he is is headed for intense physical therapy. He does move his fingers and his legs, but he doesn’t pick up his arms. The therapy people are very optimistic, given the movement in his extremities. Doctors believe it was some compression of the shoulder nerves from the car seat straps across his collar bone area. You had to see those big, wide bruise marks. Again...front facing will do it.!!

Joel now:

I would like to see: the FF threshold raised to 24 months, and larger RF seats available in the US. Thank you.

This little boy is VERY lucky he is alive. This is every parents worst nightmare, and I’m glad that I have the knowledge to help protect my kids to the best of my ability. And now I’ve passed the information to you.

Thank you for reading!

Please see these sites for more information:
(*Recommendation 1-"for optimal protection, the child should remain rear facing until reaching the max weight for the car safety seat, as long as the top of the head is below the top of the seat back")

PLEASE pass this on!

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Oct. 18, 2008 at 9:55 PM youngest is 17 months old. I was just talking about moving him to forward facing this weekend because he's pushing against the back of his seat with his feet.  After reading this...I'll be waiting longer, I think.  That poor baby. 

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Oct. 18, 2008 at 10:02 PM

To know that at least one more parent is going to continue RF brings tears to my eyes. You are making a very wise decision.

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Oct. 18, 2008 at 10:39 PM

You know...I have 5 kids.  Noah is my youngest and he's stayed rear facing the longest.  My dh keeps asking me when to turn him, and I keep saying it's safer the way he is.  He was 13 months when we made the long trip from Illinois to Florida....rear facing.  He's doesn't bother  him.  He can see me just fine by looking over his shoulder when I'm a passenger.  The only reason I made the decision to keep him rear facing is because of the things I have read online.  :)

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Oct. 19, 2008 at 2:06 PM

Thank you so much for posting this.  We've decided we're keeping ds RF until the weight limit allows (35 lbs), so this just solidifies our decision.  More people need to be aware of how dangerous premature turning to FF can be! 

Just one question though, I wonder what the weight limit was on this boy's seat?  He's 34 lbs, which in our case only a lb. more before the weight limit is maxed and he would need to be turned.  You can't go past weight restrictions either.  Just a thought though.  Nevertheless, the point is that RF is safest, and this post really brings that to light!  Thank you again!


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Oct. 19, 2008 at 2:51 PM

Yes, unfortunately that little boy only had a pound left in any US seat. But this story just goes to show that the car seat manufacturers NEED to be making higher weight limits for RF in the US. They have them in Scandinavia, where children routinely RF to 4 or 5 years old and the accident death rates are incredibly low. So they do exist! It is possible, and the results are out there!

Not only do we need higher RF limit car seats, the recomendation needs to be changed to 2 years AND 30lbs. I believe this will happen in our life time. 40 years ago, almost nobody rode in car seats. And now we see how terribly unsafe that was. 40 years from now we will look back and be shocked that we were turning our babies FF at 1 year.

And for the record, there is this rumor going around that Sunshine Kids is testing their Radians to 40lbs RF! How awesome would that be!? I bet there are very few 24 month olds over 40lbs. (And this car seat has a very long shell.)

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Oct. 20, 2008 at 2:44 PM

I had to FF my DD at 18 months becasue she hit 34 lbs and 6 oz  and the seat was 35 lbs limit .I hated to FF but we had to . We are doing Extended Harnessing though becasue we still want her as safe as she can be !

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Oct. 20, 2008 at 2:47 PM

I am sad and scared to say that my DD is 21 months and weighs ..... 36 lbs 6 oz and is over 37 inches ! She'll be 2 in January  I hope she doesn't hit 40 by then !

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Oct. 20, 2008 at 2:51 PM

Your daughter is another example of why the car seat manufacturers need to be SERIOUS about getting higher RF limits for the US. 18 months is too soon, but some parents are left with no other choice! It isn't fair. It isn't right.

I would start saving for the Graco Nautilus. It will harness to 65lbs, and then boosters to 100lbs. Usually runs $150 or less. Ask family members to chip in, sell toys and clothes, do a bake sale! lol. Heck, with Christmas and her birthday coming up, ask for money for a new seat as opposed to new toys. Toys you can get used at thrift stores and consignment stores. Car seats you should not get used.

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Oct. 24, 2008 at 5:19 PM

I started my daughter FF when I moved her from the infant seat to a toddler seat, which was when she was under a year old. She's been FF all this time, but now, after reading this and getting more info, I'm DEFINITELY moving her back to RF.

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Oct. 25, 2008 at 9:39 PM thanks for this article, I think the back seats should be completely backward facing for older kids, now. I wish car manufactures would do this. I had a britax car seat (with head support wings) that I could use for infants to 6 year old, depending on the size of the child of course... but due to it's length consumer reports said that backward facing wasn't as safe as forward facing.

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