US changing rear facing recommendations

March 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Car Seats, featured

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Rear facing recommendations in US were changed on Monday this week which has been covered extensively in the news.  The new recommendation is a good step forward and will help to keep children far safer.  

The old recommendation advised parents to keep children rear facing to at least 1 year of age and  a weight of 20 lbs.  This lead to most parents believing it was best to turn around forward facing at that time.  The new recommendation advise parents to keep children rear facing to at least two years of age:

In a new policy published in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online March 21), the AAP advises parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. It also advises that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

There are many people who have worked hard for a number of years to talk about the huge rear facing benefits .  Parents, blogs, forums, and sites informing public about rear facing  have all played an important role.  

I would like to focus on one person who has likely done far more than anyone to push forward with this new policy.  His name is Jim Peralta but we call him Grandpa Jim.  He is a great rear facing ambassador but the way he got started is tragic.  Lets go back a couple of years.

In 2008 Jim contacted and wanted to purchase a Swedish rear facing seat for his grandson Joel.  Jim was upset, or rather outraged, that his grandson had just broken his neck in a car accident.  He was thankfully not  upset at us at  

Joel was a happy and strong 18 month old and 35 lbs child who was sitting forward facing in the back seat of his parents car.  Since the recommendation was forward facing until at least 1 year and 20 lbs they  believed Joel was very safe.  They were after all following the recommendations of NHTSA and AAP.  

On August 30th 2008 Joel was involved in a frontal collision at moderate speed and  tragically broke his neck.  Grandpa Jim was furious and wanted to know how this could possibly happen.  Joel was after all in a forward facing car seat in the back seat just as recommended.  

Grandpa Jim:

A few days following the crash,  "grandpa" vented his anger, and posted the story on a few car seat safety blogs, where he received hundreds of replies to his story. That response inspired this website & video to be created.

Grandpa Jim wrote passionate posts on car seat forums and created Joels Journey to tell others about the dangers of forward facing seats for young children.  He wanted to inform other parents and grandparents of  the huge benefits of rear facing.  He quickly found out that most had no idea that rear facing was five times safer and a real life saver.

Joel broke his neck but was still fortunate to live and make good progress towards recovery.  Grandpa Jim wanted the safest Swedish rear facing car seat possible which could handle a strong boy and protect his neck.  A Swedish Britax Multi Tech with a 55 lbs rear facing limit was soon at Jims door.

Grandpa Jim was still furious about the lack of rear facing information and all young children who sat forward facing.  He created a video with a clear message, keep your children rear facing!  Jim received lots of publicity and appeared on TV and in newspapers.  

Jim had an ambitious goal. He wanted to change the US policy of "rear facing to 1 year and 20 lbs".  We stayed in contact through email and Jim contacted NHTSA, his representative at Congress, AAP, TV stations, etc.  Jim wanted answers to why the recommended period for rear facing was so short in US?  Where was the evidence?  Where was the data supporting this?  How come the Swedes say rear facing until age 4 and we say until 12 months?

Jim made very clear he was not going to give up.  I took part of many of his letters to government and organisations which mostly were met by stonewalling or lame answers. But Jim never gave up.  He kept on pushing, asking for answers and providing facts.  And we are seeing the results today with a greatly improved policy which will save many lives and greatly reduce injuries.

Joel is today recovering well after many months in  the hospital and countless hours of therapy.  Grandpa Jim has reached his goal and simply says "The "Journey" is over".

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6 Responses to “US changing rear facing recommendations”
  1. Melissa says:

    We can only hope that moms here take notice of the benefits of rf.  The new guidelines are a small step, but a step at least.  I have been utterly SHOCKED by the amount of moms who don't see the benefits of rf here in America, even when presented with research and are even defensive about the new guidelines.

  2. Nava says:

    I have soooo many friends here (too many!) that don't even want to HEAR about RF! First they'll give you lame excuses ('their legs are too long' 'they can't see me' 'I'll need 3 new car seats to RF, so I can't afford it') and every time you give them the answers, data, links, pictures and proof they'll come up with more excuses and when they run out, they start calling you all sorts of nasty names. Sad, sad state of affairs. But on the bright side, I've convinced 3 of my friends to RF past 1 year and even convinced one to turn her almost-2-year-old back around RF! Woohoo!!
    Have you seen this great (short) editorial? It really hits the nail on the head with all the excuses we've been hearing from parents lately :,0,4004734.story

  3. Shannon says:

    I have to say I'm very curious of the physics behind this and what kind of crashes they're examining.  Physics would seem to say say that a rear crash, frontal crash and side crash all would have different pressures exerted on the child….

  4. Mom says:

    The concept is hard and seems new to many people in the states, but they are often just hearing about something that many have known for years.
    In any crash type the rear-facing occupant is the safest.  Frontal crashes are the most severe.  The morality rate for children in Sweden is near 0 for children 0-4, a country which rear-faces their children to at least 4.   The brunt of forces are taken by the seat instead of the child.  Even in rear-end accidents the rear facing child is better off.  Interestingly enough, forward facing children suffer more broken legs due to the excursion of the arms and legs into the seat in front of them, not to mention the severe internal decapitation that can occur in the forward facing child.

  5. Emily C says:

    As one noted above, parents here are suprisingly not willing to change regardless of the evidence that supports ERF.  The most common comment I get is, "what about her/his legs?", and "that must be uncomfortable".  My DD is 5 years old, 46" (more length actually in her legs than torso) and is STILL RF in her Multi-Tech.  She has NOT ONCE complained about her legs and has never asked to be turned around (even though she did ride home once with a neighbor from preschool).  Moms I think are too concerned about what other people think when they see that their children are still RF (it's considered "weird" here…and heaven forbid we're not like everyone else!). 

  6. I have been searching for a new rear facing seat for my daughter for several months.  She is still in her infant seat because she has not quite out grown the maximum specs.  The news of the US changing to 2yr RF min came right after my daughter's 1st birthday.  I had been shopping around for her a new forward facing carseat for months already.  I agree that people don't accept change well even if it is for their own safety.  Just because my mom let me run around our station wagon when driving through town unbuckled often does not mean its safe.  It makes us lucky we didn't get in a car accident.  I can not convince any of my friends to turn their 1yr olds back to RF.  Their excuses are their legs are too long or my baby is used to be forward facing now.  They throw tantrems being in the carseat I can only imagine how'd they be if I turned them around again.  No one is convinced its safer.  I'm keeping my child RF til she's booster seat size.  I don't want to take any chances.