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!

Add A Comment


Oct. 26, 2008 at 7:59 AM

Consumer reports is not something I would trust when it comes to car seats. They dont do the testing at the same standards as the manufacturer. When there was all of that hoopla about infant seats being unsafe, tested by consumer reports, we come to find out that they were testing these seats at over 60mph! And there was no proof that they were correctly installing and using the seat otherwise.

As for backwards facing seats, no car seat on the market is approved to be installed and used on any seat that isn't facing forward. The seats are designed and tested one way. Using it in any other way, making any alterations, is essentially turning your child into a real live crash test dummy.

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Oct. 28, 2008 at 4:18 PM

Thank you so much for your post! We are at a disadvantage with our government standards with most of our products. It's a real shame.

My daughter is 5 yrs, 46 lbs and 46 inches.. she is FF in a 5-point harness, but the straps are maxed out even though the seat goes up to 50lbs w/ 5pt. and 100 lbs as a booster.  What the heck do I do? I want to keep her in the 5 pt as long as possible!  Are belt extenders safe to use?  (Alpha/Omega Elite)

My almost 3 yr old is 38" and 31 lbs is FF (RF til 18 mos seat max is 30lbs) and still has another height setting for the straps, and goes to 40lbs.  But the straps seem to shift since they are double looped at the top and he can escape leaving only the hip strap!  (Evenflo Triumph) 

I can't afford 2 - $200 car seats!  What are families like mine supposed to do?? 

I would love to see any follow-ups to your post as you gain more knowledge of the standards. You are making a difference sharing your story.  Your grandson is truly blessed (in more ways than one).  I hope he makes a full recovery!  Thank you and God bless your family!

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Oct. 29, 2008 at 7:11 AM

Well first of all, this isn't my grandson. This is a story that a grandfather has been posting on various parenting boards. I just read an update, and Joel is definitely on the way to recovery! He is still in that halo, and will be for many months to come, but he is able to move his limbs. He has weakness in his arms and fingers, and they believe that is due to nerve damage in his shoulders.

At any rate. I believe your DD's AOE harness only goes up to 40lbs. Please check the manual and double check that. What I would do is get your dd a Graco Nautilus. It is a FF only seat, and will harness to 65lbs, then boosters to 100lbs, and it is usually under $150. Then move your son to the AOE, while you save up to buy another Nautilus for him.

Message Friend Invite (Original Poster)

Oct. 29, 2008 at 5:17 PM

Thanks... that was actually what I was thinking yesterday as I looked up the specs on her seat.  It does only harness up to 40 lbs (which is rediculous for a seat that will boost up to 100lbs!)  I don't like the idea of the adult belt yet, but I really don't have $150 either.  I am stuck.

Thanks for the info, and sorry about the mis-understanding.  I remember reading it was a grandfather's story, not yours.  ooops.

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Oct. 29, 2008 at 5:22 PM

Perhaps you can sell toys or clothes to a consignment store, or on ebay, or list them on craigslist. Ask the kids' grandparents, god-parents, aunts, uncles, etc if they could make any sort of contribution to the car seat fund. Ask for an early Christmas or birthday present. Explain why she needs the seat, that her safety is at stake, and Im sure some people might be more than willing to help you out.

Message Friend Invite (Original Poster)

Nov. 22, 2008 at 8:38 PM

Do you mind if I repost this?

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Nov. 22, 2008 at 8:41 PM

Absolutely not! Repost away. I got permission from Joels grandfather to repost. It is a strong story with a strong message.

Message Friend Invite (Original Poster)

May. 1, 2009 at 6:11 PM

For the car sear, Graco Nautilus, that is only a FF?  You can't RF with it?

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May. 1, 2009 at 8:19 PM

Yes. The Nautilus is a FF only car seat.

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