Parents often ask Chiropractors when car seats should be turned to face forward. Remarkable research on this issue helps parents make an informed decision that will best serve their family. Safety concerns led to the evolution of rear-facing car seats. Motor vehicle collisions typically take place with the vehicle moving forward. The mechanism of this type of accident forces the head and neck of all passengers forward toward the windshield of the vehicle in a quick, jerking movement. The majority of injuries occur as the neck snaps backwards after the initial jolt toward the windshield. Any precaution that minimizes the forward-back jerking motion of the neck as a result of the collision will help lower the severity or prevent any significant bone and soft tissue injuries.
Research shows that the strength and stability of neck alignment and soft tissue will determine the extent of injury. Rear-facing car seats provide stability for an infant’s neck and soft tissue when the muscles and ligaments are not yet fully developed. An infant’s neck, spine, and muscles eventually develop to the point of being able to withstand the majority of trauma from a motor vehicle accident.
Research done in 2007 showed the inaccuracy of previous standards that allowed infants to be turned towards the front of a car after one year of age and a weight of at least 20 pounds. The study states that children up to 23 months old are almost 75 percent less likely to die or sustain serious injury in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing one. A rear-facing seat spreads the force exerted on a child’s body during a crash more evenly across the entire body, limiting the motion of the head and reducing the potential for neck injury. The protective car seat also keeps the child more contained within the shell of the child restraint than a forward-facing seat. The benefits of a rear-facing car seat rated particularly high in side impact crashes as well.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and many child-passenger safety advocates expanded their recommendations to suggest that infants and young children should remain rear-facing until at least 23 months of age and a weight of at least 35 pounds. Infants and children routinely experience significant stress without ever experiencing a motor vehicle accident. Traumas from birth, falls, accidents, and learning to walk produce enough stress on the spine and nervous system to require regular Chiropractic spinal evaluations for all children. Chiropractors focus on caring for the spine and central nervous system through spinal adjustments and education. Proper car seat safety continues to be one of many important topics that help prevent unwanted spine and nervous system problems for infants and toddlers. Regular Chiropractic care helps infants and children achieve and maintain proper spine and nervous system health throughout life. Waiting to use a front-facing car seat protects the safety and well-being of a child, but not waiting to begin Chiropractic care ensures that every child will be given optimal chance to grow and develop a healthy brain, spine, and body.
Journal of Injury Prevention
2007 Dec; 13(6): 398–402
“Car safety seats for children: rear facing for best protection”
B Henary, C P Sherwood, J R Crandall, R W Kent, F E Vaca, K B Arbogast, and M J Bull