Nearly three-quarters of parents turn car seats to face forward too early, according to new research.
According to the National Poll on Children's Health data, many parents don't follow guidelines that call for using rear-facing car seats until age 2. Using a rear-facing car seat until a child is 2 reduces risk of serious injury, but close to 25 percent of parents report they turned the seat around before their child was even a year old, a University of Michigan study found.
In March 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines for child passenger safety, recommending children use a rear-facing car seat to a minimum of 2 years of age or until a child has outgrown the weight/height limits of their rear-facing seat.
Researchers from the University of Michigan asked parents about when they transitioned their child to a forward-facing seat in two national surveys: one in 2011, one month after the new guidelines were published and again in 2013.
In 2011, 33 percent of parents of 1-to 4-year-old children who had been turned to face forward had done so at or before 12 months and just 16 percent reported turning their child's seat at 2 years or older. But in 2013, 24 percent of parents made the switch at or before 12 months and only 23 percent reported waiting to turn until the child was 2 years old or older.
Motor-vehicle collisions remain a leading cause of death among children younger than 4 and the leading cause of death among older children in the U.S., in part because child passengers continue to be unrestrained or do not use the recommended restraint for their age.
"There are lots of reasons why parents are eager to change from the rear-facing to forward-facing seat: the perception their children are too large, the desire to see their children when driving and a greater ease of removing their children from a forward facing seat," said lead author Michelle L. Macy, of the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. "But delaying the switch can make a big difference. In Sweden it is culturally accepted that children up to age 4 are in rear-facing seats and child traffic fatalities are among the lowest in the world."