Rear-Facing Car Seats Safest for Kids Up to Age 4

New recommendations suggest that older children should use the safety devices.

ByABC News
June 11, 2009, 6:05 PM

June 12, 2009— -- Vanessa Lal, 32, of Lake Zurich, Ill., said she considers herself fortunate that both of her children -- a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter and a 9-month-old son -- took to the family's rear-facing child car seat well.

"I'm lucky -- both of my kids don't have too much of a problem with it," she said.

Lal, like many parents, follows the current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children less than 1 year of age or lighter than 20 pounds should be placed in a rear-facing child car seat -- which positions young children facing backwards in the car's cabin -- in order to decrease the risk that they will be injured in an accident.

Indeed, there is little doubt that the seats represent the safest means available to transport children in a car -- even after their first year of life. And a new recommendation published Thursday in the British Medical Journal suggests that children up to the age of 4 are safest if placed in such seats when riding in a car.

"Many parents and health care providers may be unaware that it is safer to leave children in rear-facing seats for as long as possible or that rear-facing seats for toddlers exist," the paper's authors, led by Dr. Elizabeth Watson of Meed Surgery in Woking, United Kingdom, wrote in their report. "Health care professionals should advise that rear facing seats are safer than forward facing seats for children aged under 4 years."

Child safety experts overwhelmingly applauded the recommendation.

"A child is 5.53 times safer during their second year of life in a rear-facing car seat versus a forward-facing one," said Dr. Joseph O'Neil, a pediatrician at Riley Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. "I think that this is a very important topic for child safety."