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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It's recommended that children up to 24 months old travel in a rear-facing car seat to prevent injuries in car accidents, yet nearly three-quarters of parents turn their child’s car seat around too early, a new University of Michigan study shows.
The university distributed the first of two surveys one month after the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines to keep children in a rear-facing seat until 2 years of age, and they found that just 16 percent turned their child's seat at 2 years or older, according to a news release.
When the university conducted the second survey in 2013, the results hardly showed improvement. While 23 percent of parents turned their child’s seat after they turned 2 years old, 24 percent made the switch before their child turned 1.
"So we've seen some improvement, with a higher proportion of parents reporting that they are waiting longer to make the switch to a forward-facing car seat. However, almost one-quarter of parents are turning their children before their first birthday," lead author Michelle L. Macy said in the news release. "And few parents report waiting until that second birthday to make the turn."
Car accidents are a leading cause of death in 1- to 4-year-olds and the leading cause of death in older kids in the United States.
- Children aged 0-2: rear-facing seat
- Children 2 to at least 5 years old: forward-facing seat
- Children age 5 until the seat belt fits: booster seat
"Getting parents to delay the transition to a forward-facing seat still represents an opportunity to improve passenger safety in the U.S.," Macy said.
Twenty percent of 1- to 3-year-olds and nearly half of 4- to 7-year-olds are not commuting in their recommended car seat.
"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," Macy said. "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."
In the surveys, parents said the most common resources for obtaining information on when to make the switch for their child’s car seat were the car seat packaging and their child’s clinician.
"We hope this research further encourages clinicians to spend time with their patients talking about the benefits of extending the use of a rear-facing car seat. It will be the kids that benefit, if their parents get the right information about how to use restraints and when to make transitions," Macy said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that car seats can reduce the risk of death to infants by 71 percent and 51 percent for toddlers.
To read the recommendations for protective car seats at each age, visit the CDC website.