Monday, May 12, 2008

Soap Box

I don’t usually do this, but it’s been on my mind lately. I definitely respect other peoples’ parenting decisions unless they are being abusive. So please don’t take the following as a judgment against you if you have chosen something else for your child. I am just writing to educate because I feel that many parents don’t know about this topic.

Most people quote the guidelines for car seats as “less than one year and 20 pounds” for rear facing. At that point, they turn their child around to face forward. I wish that doctors and parenting literature would look at the data that exists and advise parents otherwise. A child (and anyone else in the car, for that matter) is much better protected in a side-impact or head-on collision if they are rear facing. Side-impact and head-on collisions are the deadliest type of crashes. Why aren’t more people told about this?

In my personal experience, most parents look forward to the day that they get to turn their one-year old around to forward facing. It’s almost treated like a milestone such as crawling or walking. If they only watched this video, they would probably change their minds. Did you watch it? Can you imagine your one-year old's head being thrown forward like that? Compare that one to this video of a RF child. The Extended Rear Facing article that I link to in my favorite links list says “…car seat milestones seem exciting. The truth is, they should be looked at with a certain sense of dread, not longing. Every step in car seat ‘advancement’ is actually a step down in your child's protection.”

I hope to keep Ty rear facing until he is 33 lbs (the RF limit of his seat). It is not the easiest thing to do because there are many times that I feel it would be so much easier or convenient to have him facing forward. What I mean is that it would be easier to give him snacks, drinks, and entertain him if he were FF. But HIS safety has to take priority over MY convenience.

With Emily, she didn’t reach 33 lbs until she was almost 3, but I turned her around at 18 months (27 lbs). The reason I did this is that she was wriggling out of her straps, and when we would arrive at our destination, I would find her upper body totally unsecured. I knew that RF was better, but not if the child is out of the harness! With her FF, I was able to reach back and pull the tighten-up strap thingie any time she tried to escape.

I also plan to keep my kiddos in their 5-point harnesses as long as possible. We will definitely not rush to be in a booster, even if that means she is riding to kindergarten in a 5-point harness convertible car seat. I read a sad story last week about a 4 year old who was killed in a 30 mph crash. They say she would have survived had she been in a convertible car seat rather than a booster. LEGALLY, she was okay in a booster, but unfortunately, the law only provides for the bare minimum of safety.

Texas has inadequate child restraint laws, IMO. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children under age 14, but our law doesn’t do anything to reduce those statistics. Here it is, folks:
(a) A person commits an offense if the person operates a passenger vehicle, transports a child who is younger than five years of age and less than 36 inches in height, and does not keep the child secured during the operation of the vehicle in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety seat system.
(b) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $100 or more than $200.

That’s it! There are no laws about age/weight requirements for the type of safety seat, and the punishment is a mere $200. I guess the reason this is on my mind is that this past weekend, I saw a woman in Rising Star, TX put her infant (in an infant seat) in the front middle of her car (the car DID have a back seat) and take off without even buckling the seat in. Through the window, I could see that the seat was wobbling and not even straight. How can you put your little baby in such danger? Then, today at Sonic, I witnessed a child, probably age 2, in the back seat with NO child restraint!!! When I see negligent parents, I wonder what I should do, and I am often tempted to call the police. Maybe I should--what do you do in that situation?

I realize that when I was a baby, there were no such laws and no such things as car seats. Fortunately, we are here anyway. I do not fault my parents and any parents of my peers; they were doing the best they knew with the information they had at the time (not much). But now we do know more and have more safety resources. So I definitely think that we should use them!

I am now stepping off of my soap box. If you want more information about extended rear facing, the experts have written many informative articles, and they are linked on this website. If you haven't already, I encourage you to watch the crash test video footage of RF vs FF. It is linked earlier in my post, and it is also linked on the Extended RF website.

Again, my goal is to educate those who may not know that the typical guidelines are not the safest. I am not trying to slam anyone who turns their child FF at one year/20 lbs.

I will close with a picture of Ty, a 26 pound one-year old who will proudly remain RF. He doesn't mind being behind his peers on this milestone! BTW, I had not correctly positioned him until after I took the picture. I just don't want to be a bad example, so that is my disclaimer!

"I want YOU to be safe in the car!"


Amy said...

I've heard/read this speech before!

MelissaT said...

LOL--That's me--the bossy big sister!

Jennifer said...

Very good information!

Robyn said...

It was so good to see y'all at camp! You have a beautiful family. Y'all take care!

Amanda said...

Melissa, I totally agree! I kept Bethany rear facing until she outgrew the weight requirement. I plan to do the same with Landry. And they will both stay in a 5 point harness for a long time. Thanks for all the good info and references!