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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 12:58 EDT

Children Are Safer In Rear-Facing Seats Up To The Age Of Four

June 12, 2009

According to a recent study in Britain, it is much safer for parents to continue putting their children in rear-facing car seats at least until the age of four.

In many countries it is very common to change babies to front-facing seats when a child reaches about 20 pounds, which is typically around eight-months old, said the study.

British general physician Elizabeth Watson and Michael Monteiro of Sunny Meed Surgery in Woking, near London, looked at specific studies from Europe and the United States to see if they could find any patterns in safety.

They discovered that small children were invariably safer in a car when rear-facing rather than faced forward.

The researchers concluded that “Parents and guardians should be advised to keep young children in rear facing seats for as long as possible.”

“Excessive stretching or even transection (cutting) of the spinal cord can result if a child is involved in a head-on crash while in a forward facing car seat.”

In Sweden, kids are typically in rear-facing seats up to the age of four. Data revealed that some children in forward-facing booster seats who died in accidents would have more likely survived the crash if they had been facing the other direction.

A review of US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on crashes between 1998 and 2003 involving 870 children concluded that rear-facing seats were able to better protect children up to 23 months in every type of accident.

The study published on the website of the British Medical Journal noted that unlike forward-facing seats, rear-facing car seats keep the head, neck and spine completely aligned so that the force of the impact is shared between all of these body areas.

The researchers are urging both manufacturers and retailers to make rear-facing seats for older children more widely available.

They have also asked for a change in current weight-range labeling of European seats, which erroneously suggest that forward and rear-facing seats are equally safe for kids over 20 pounds.

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