A new recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until the age of two, or until they exceed the height or weight limit specified by the car seat manufacturer. However, the leading Canadian association of pediatricians, the Société de l’assurance automobile (SAAQ) and CAA-Québec have no immediate plans to adopt this recommendation.
The new policy is based on findings from a study published in 2007, which found that children under the age of two are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a car crash if they are facing the rear. Another study found that rear-facing children were five times safer than forward-facing children. This is because rear-facing seats provide better support of the child’ head, neck and spine in a crash, with the force of the collision distributed more evenly over the entire body.
Previously, the American association advised parents to keep children rear-facing as long as possible, up to the maximum limit specified by the car seat manufacturer. But in reality, many experts recommended turning the seat forward once the child was one year old or had reached the weight of 10 kg, which is the de facto Canadian position on the subject.
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends the use of rear-facing car seats until the infant is at least one year of age, weighs at least 10 kg and has started to walk. The SAAQ, for its part, only mentions that rear-facing seats must be used until the age of one. And for now, CAA-Québec simply recommends keeping the child in the rear-facing position for as long as possible.
According to the new American recommendations, if children turn two before they reach the height or weight limit for rear-facing use, it is best to keep them in that position until they do. Conversely, if a child exceeds the height or weight limit for the seat before the age of two, it is best to purchase a rear-facing seat with a higher height or weight limit.
In the end, parents are responsible for their children’s safety. It is entirely up to them if they wish to use a rear-facing seat for longer than the period recommended by the current Canadian recommendations.