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How Long Should Children Be in Rear-Facing Car Seats?

Published on Mar 26, 2020 at 2:02 pm in Car Accidents.

Baby in car seat

As a parent, you always want to do what is best for your child. You might think that as long as your child is in a car seat, they’re safe, but that’s not necessarily the truth. While 325 children under 5 were saved by car seats in 2017, depending on your child’s age and size, different types of car seats could be safer than others, like rear-facing car seats.

Though it might sound more dangerous for your baby’s car seat to face backwards in the car, it actually is safer for them in the event of a collision. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that rear-facing car seats are safer for very young and small children because it keeps them in a more stationary position and keeps their head from falling forward since their neck muscles aren’t strong enough to hold up their heads that are larger than their bodies, which can cause injury or even death if they obstruct their breathing.

As recommended by the AAP, children should be in rear-facing car seats until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat. The toddler may reach 2 years old and be big enough to transition into a front-facing car seat, but if they have not reached the height and weight requirements, they should remain in a rear-facing seat. These recommendations are great guidelines, but you should also go by state laws for car seats.

Kentucky Car Seat Laws

It’s best to fully understand our state’s laws for car seats before driving your child around in the car in case you get pulled over or get into a car accident. Here are the guidelines, as specified by Kentucky’s Legislature:

  • A child under 40 inches in height must be properly secured in a child restraint system that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards.
  • A child under 8 years old who is between 40 and 57 inches tall must be properly secured in a child booster seat.
  • A child of any age who is taller than 57 inches is not required to be in a booster seat.

Although Kentucky’s car seat laws do not specify that children under 2 years old should be in rear-facing car seats, it’s still best practice in keeping your child safe, and is recommended to be used by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

How to Install a Rear-Facing Car Seat

Before you can feel confident in your child’s safety while in a rear-facing car seat, you’ll need to know how to most effectively position your child in it. Kentucky’s Department of Transportation cites this guide about how to install child safety seats. Here are the main takeaways:

  • 45 degree angle. The seat should not be at an upright angle, as it could obstruct the baby’s breathing. Make sure it is at an approximately 45 degree angle, and you can use foam pool noodles to raise the bottom of the seat to the correct height.
  • Along seatbelt path. Your car’s seat belt should follow through the seat’s designated seat belt path that is usually along the bottom of the seat. Look into the car seat’s instruction manual to make sure you have it at the correct spot, otherwise your seat could come loose.
  • Harness at chest level. Make sure that the chest harness is properly positioned at the baby’s chest in line with their armpits. If it is placed too low, the baby could move around too much and get worse injuries in the event of an accident.
  • Straps are snug and flat. The straps should be at the baby’s shoulders and laying straight and flat and should be snug against the baby’s body. If they are too loose, the baby will not be held in place during the ride and would be in more danger in a collision.

Other than these tips, never place a rear-facing seat forward before the child is old enough or big enough to face forward. Also, if a car seat is only intended to face backwards, it should never be faced forward. Some car seats are convertible, though, and come with instructions on how to properly convert them to forward-facing car seats once your child has reached the correct age, height, and weight.

Golden Law Office Will Fight for You

At Golden Law Office, we know how sensitive the time after an auto wreck that wasn’t your fault feels, especially when you or your children were harmed. You can trust our Lexington car accident lawyer to handle your case with care while fighting firmly for your rights. Contact us today if you think you could have a claim, and we can discuss your potential legal options.

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