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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Michigan Study: Almost Three-Quarters of Parents Turn Car Seats to Face Forward Too Early

Using a rear-facing car seat until a child is age two reduces risk of serious injury, but close to one-quarter of parents report they turned the seat around before their child was even one year old, according to a new University of Michigan study.

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[Photo: Dr. Matthew Davis]

In March 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines for child passenger safety, extending the recommendation for rear-facing car seat use from one year of age and 20 pounds in weight to a minimum of two years of age or until a child has outgrown the weight/height limits of their rear-facing seat. The U-M researchers asked parents about when they transitioned their child to a forward-facing seat in two national surveys – one in 2011, one month after the new guidelines were published and again in 2013.

The research was conducted as part of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health and was published January 6 in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

In 2011, 33 percent of parents of 1-to 4-year-old children who had been turned to face forward had done so at or before 12 months. Just 16 percent reported turning their child’s seat at 2 years or older. But in 2013, 24 percent of parents of 1- to 4-year-old children who had been turned to face forward made the switch at or before 12 months. Only 23 percent reported waiting to turn until the child was 2 years old or older.

“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,” says lead author Dr. Michelle L. Macy of the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and a faculty investigator in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit (CHEAR). “And few parents report waiting until that second birthday to make the turn.”

“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,” says Dr. Macy.

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