Are Rear-Facing Infant Seats A Thing of the Past?

(July 8, 2011) When you navigate through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website under the Child Safety tab for children between birth and one year old, the car-seat recommendations state that any child under the age of one should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. It also says, “a rear-facing car seat is the best seat for your child to reduce the stress to the child’s fragile neck and spinal cord.” But how often do they test alternative methods with new technology?

 

Although I do not have the answer to that question, Suzanne Tylko seems to think there are other ways your child should be sitting to ensure his or her safety. Tylko is a researcher at Transport Canada, which has been leading the industry in motor vehicle crash safety research. TC conducted a three-year study which found that there were four areas of impact: direct head contact with the rear seat back in front of the dummy; contact between the child restraint and the forward seat back; dummy head contact with the carry handle; and child seat with the center console between the front seats.

 

So what does this mean for my newborn baby and me, you are probably asking?! Well, a May 2010 study by NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis also cited head injuries as the most common injury for children in crashes. They found that infants under one year old had a higher incidence of head injury than older children ages one to seven. Infants also were more likely to have sustained a concussion or be knocked unconscious in a crash.

 

But the most daunting finds from this study show that head injuries in children have long-range societal impacts. The study found that “in children, some neurological deficits after head trauma may not manifest for many years… Injury to the frontal lobes may not become apparent until the child reaches adolescence when higher level reasoning develops.”

 

Over the past three years TC has been conducting their research, they found that infant seats performed significantly better if they were secured by universal anchorage system, also called the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), because there was less excursion. Their findings show the back of the infant seat slamming into the back of the front seat backs or the infants hitting their seat backs, which results in the head to contact the back of the front seat backs.

 

In a worst-case scenario if this were to happen to your child in real life, you might get the false hope that your baby is okay, only coming to realize many years later that they have permanent, irreversible frontal lobe damage, as well as damage to parts of the brain associated with the reading and writing centers.

 

When interviewed about how to fix this flawed industry standard, Tylko concluded, “The protection of an infant should be based on the same principle that are used to guide helmet design for head protection… The real problem is the lack of standards and dynamic testing.” Without revising these standards, Tylko can only recommend not placing a rear-facing infant seat in the center position, as well as using the LATCH system on the side seats, and not the middle seat.

 

Do you have any opinions or alternative, viable options or recommendations for infant seat safety improvements? Comment below, or Tweet us or leave a Facebook message. Be sure to check out our website as well.

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