US changing rear facing recommendations
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 CarSeat.se 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 CarSeat.se:-)
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.
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".