In a press release heard ’round the world on Friday, the British Medical Journal announced a new recommendation that children up to age 4 should remain rear-facing in child restraints when riding in a vehicle. What makes this advice so extraordinary is that researchers are telling health care professionals to advise parents and caregivers that rear-facing seats are safer for children under age 4. That’s a big step. Think about it: most babies in the UK are turned forward at around 9 kg. That’s 19.8 lbs. to you and me here in the States. Both of my kiddos hit that weight somewhere between 4 and 5 months old (yes, you read that right).
OK, but really, big deal, right? They’re finally jumping on the rear-facing bandwagon over there in the UK. It’s about time, right? Haven’t we been blowing the rear-facing hot air toward them for a long time? Our very own American Academy of Pediatrics has been recommending since 2002 that “If a car safety seat accommodates children rear facing to higher weights, for optimal protection, the child should remain rear facing until reaching the maximum weight for the car safety seat, as long as the top of the head is below the top of the seat back.” Kathleen Weber in her 2000 paper, Crash Protection for Child Passengers, A Review of Best Practice (UMTRI Research Review 31(3):1-27 (2000) ) noted that children were safer rear-facing for as long as possible. This isn’t a new concept.