Rear Facing Car Seats: Are they Safer?

UPDATED: 3/21/11 The AAP has finally added a policy that suggest children should keep their kids rear facing until age TWO. Check out the link!! 

It’s pretty obvious that we put our infants in an infant car seat that faces “backwards”- or rear facing from the day we bring them home from the Hospital. But,when is the right time to turn the car seat around? Does age or weight limit make much of a difference in their safety?

The chances of a car accident are small, and we hope it will never happen to our family, but what if?

Today, instead of telling you what I do or don’t believe in, or practice in my family, I simply want to present you with a series of facts that have been taken from several different sources- all found online. It was really educational and eye opening for me, I hope it is for you too!

Clicking on the link will take you to the original article with more information.

From CarSafety.org ::

“Rear-facing as long as possible is the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatricians, and can reduce injuries and deaths. Motor Vehicle Crashes are the #1 overall cause of death for children 14 and under.”

From abc.go.com ::


Many parents and health care providers may be unaware that it is safer to leave children in rear-facing seats for as long as possible or that rear-facing seats for toddlers exist,” the paper’s authors, led by Dr. Elizabeth Watson of Meed Surgery in Woking, United Kingdom, wrote in their report. “Health care professionals should advise that rear facing seats are safer than forward facing seats for children aged under 4 years.”Child safety experts overwhelmingly applauded the recommendation.

A child is 5.53 times safer during their second year of life in a rear-facing car seat versus a forward-facing one,” said Dr. Joseph O’Neil, a pediatrician at Riley Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis


From CPSafety.com ::


“It is strongly recommended that all children stay rear-facing beyond the minimum requirements of 1 year and 20 lbs. Children should not be turned forward-facing until they reach the maximum rear-facing limits of a convertible seat (that allows rear-facing to at least 30 lbs). These limits are either the maximum rear-facing weight limit or when the top of their head is within one inch of the top of the seat shell, whichever comes first. While most parents are aware that they must keep their children rear-facing “until they are AT LEAST 1 year old AND 20 lbs”, very few are told that there are significant safety benefits when a child remains rear-facing as long as the seat allows. For most children, rear-facing can and should continue well into the second year of life”


Many parents have the misconception that children are uncomfortable or at risk for leg injury by having their legs up on the vehicle seat or bent when kept rear-facing. These concepts are completely incorrect.”

How do you feel about this issue? What does your family do?

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

26 thoughts on “Rear Facing Car Seats: Are they Safer?

  1. Violet is 21.5 months old and is still rear facing in both of our cars. It's pretty tough in my VW Beetle, but we manage safely. Both of our carseats allow rear facing until 35 lbs, and she is currently 25.5 lbs. We will leave her rear facing at LEAST until her 2nd birthday, longer in our 4 door car which is easier to maneuver around in the back seat.

  2. Instinct told me to face Caleb rear facing until after age 2, and he's a big boy…already 25ish lbs at almost 1 year. He'll face rear for as long as possible!

  3. Mack rf until 4.6 and Makayla is still rf at 2.3.Here in Denmark we can get Swedish seats that RF until 25 kilos.In Sweden it is law that they RF until 4 years old

  4. thanks for posting this. I think we need to talk about this more, many people don't know how safe RF is!

  5. When Peeper moved out of the “bucket” seat at about a year old (although she is still – at 20 months – well within the 22 lb weight limit, and didn't exceed the height limit until about 15 months) we bought a Graco MyRide 65, which allows rear-facing to 40 lbs and front-facing to 65 lbs.

    Our petite Peep will be rear-facing until kindergarten, and in this thing until she gets her license.

  6. We had complications because our 1 year old exceeded the height, but not the weight on the pumpkin seat aka infant seat. We had an awesome carseat from a baby shower we THOUGHT was rear facing but turned out to be FF only. She didn't weigh enough to go into it. So we did what anyone would do and bought a new seat (with as many discounts as possible) for my vehicle and tried to use it as much as possible until she hit 20 lbs. Her growth has slowed so much that she only weighs 23 1/2 lbs but it much taller than the pumpkin seat of course. She still sits rear facing in the truck with me and FF with dad in the car. The car has side curtain air bags and she is in the middle. It's the best we can do. We will ask her doctor at her 2 year appointment if we should turn her around or not in the truck. It would be really nice because she is WAY old enough to get mud on her shoes and our seats are getting gross from her shoes!

  7. Thank you for posting this. I only ran across a blog post with this type of information a month ago. Before that, I had NO idea. I was a little freaked out/shocked to say the least. I can't imagine why this isn't brought up more. I did a ridiculous amount of research during my pregnancy and still didn't know about this.

  8. Just turned my daughter around at 27 months, she kept trying to turn around and face forward. Completely agree about better education about rear-facing till at least 2 yrs old.

  9. My daughter is slim, so she was able to rear face until she was 4. She could still be RF'ing now at 5 1/2 with the newer seats that go to higher weights (ours was a 33 lb limit) except that we can't fit two rf'ing seats in our car!

    She'll be harnessed until she hits the 40 lb minimum AND can sit propertly 100% of the time in a booster.

  10. We rear face our 21 month old and will until her head is almost to the top of the carseat (that's the guide I've always heard you should go by)

    Personally we feel we'd rather risk a leg injury than run the bigger risk of a neck injury with a forward facing seat.

    And many rear carseats it seems do allow for rear facing until 35 pounds. Lucy is 24 pounds and and yet 2. I don't really understand why parents jump/rush their kids to forward face.

  11. I just turned both my girls back to rear-facing about a month ago after doing research on the topic. My girls are 3 yrs and the exact age as your son, 16 mo old today! I get A LOT of strange looks and comments from people and always have to explain myself. I go straight to the fact that in Sweden it's the law…so on and so forth. 🙂

  12. Caelyn is going to be rear-facing til she reaches the weight limit in the car seat which is 40lbs.. and then maybe longer. There are just too many risks for me to put her FFing. I know my mom is going to battle me especially about her carseat in her car, but I am going to be firm about this. I know she is going to say she wants to look forward, but does she know the difference? NO! They are sooo much safer!
    thanks for posting this, Im going to show my mom it when it comes time for the battle lol

  13. I am going to differ on this from all the other comments and say that we moved all our children forward facing as soon as they turned 1 and will be doing so again with our youngest in 3 weeks. I know that the research says that rear facing is safer but can not imagine leaving my other children (4 & 2 backwards) in the back seats of my van where I would not be able to hear them, talk to them, see them or pass them things when they need it. I will leave my kids in a 5 point harness until the weight limit which is 65lbs but will keep them facing forward. When I was a baby there were no car seats or at least none that my parents used.

  14. We were actually “those odds” and survived a high speed highway crash (at no fault of our own, the car came flying across the median from the other side of the highway!) last summer. 6 months in a wheelchair followed by a walker, cane and after a year or physical therapy…I was a mess.

    Thankfully, my daughter, on the other hand, shows no lasting signs from the accident and only suffered a broken collar bone and severe bruising. A miracle considering the severity of the accident. She was 13 months and FORWARD facing, as I did not find out about the new recommended guidelines (or maybe they weren't published yet?) until a few months later. She was in a Britax Boulevard carseat, which was a big splurge, but worth every penny. It's hard to say is the results would have been the same or different if she was still rear facing as every car accident is different, but I do plan on rear-facing baby #2 for longer.

  15. We did extended RF in our family until my daughter was 30 pounds. I probably could have kept her even longer but with the Britax Boulevard car seat (best ever!) I felt it was safe enough, especially with her being in the middle of the back seat in our SUV with a five star crash rating.

    I am anal retentive about car seat safety and inspections so I really felt when we did change her to FF, it was the right move. But I am hoping that a law will be passed that children under the age of 2 remain RF as there are so many people that FF their kids despite the “recommendation” not to. Why wouldn't you want to do want is the safest choice for your child?! Just sayin…

    Also important to note: 9 out of 10 parents INCORRECTLY install their children's car seat!! CRAZY! It is so important to get your child's car seat inspected by a certified technician. Check carseat.org and find a locationnear you. Most of the time it is FREE!

  16. I researched carseats shortly before Pixie turned one (a little over a month ago). She is very tiny and very slim, and was getting too long for the infant carseat/carrier but was not yet 20lbs. I knew we needed a convertible carseat for that reason, but it wasn't until researching them and shopping around that I learned how much safer extended RF is.

    We went with the Graco MyRide 65 and it will accomodate RF up to 40 lbs and FF (with 5-pt harness) up to 65 lbs. My brother-in-law has the Sunshine Kids Radon 80 for his kids, and they love those ones (out of our price range, unfortunately).

  17. We kept our first child in a rear facing seat until about 15 months. We turned out second child around at 12 months when he was at the minimum because the convertible car seat we had bought for him the month before did';t fit in our vehicle rear facing properly (it couldn't recline to the right angle). I would have like d to keep him rear facing longer but it was better the seat was installed properly front facing then improperly rear facing.

    We thought we had the car seat installation down pat but after attending a car seat clinic we discovered we had done a few things wrong- like not leaning into the seat while tightening the latch belt. I HIGHLY recommend everyone attends a car seat clinic even if they think they are a pro!

  18. I I actually didn't even know about this until a few months ago when I read it somewhere else. I just assumed you turned them around when they were about a year or so or seemed big.

    I don't know why more people don't know about this??? Mine is almost 2 and is RF but I think we might move him FF soon, I'm not sure!

  19. my little man is 25 months and still rear facing… he is about 27 or 28 lbs and his seat goes up to 35 rear facing…

    MY husband has been wanting to turn him around, but I want to stay rear facing as long as possible. He doesn't know any different since he has always been rear facing.

  20. I am huge on car seat safety! My daughter rear faced until she was 2. Another big thing for me is keeping your child in a 5-pt harness as long as possible. My son is 5 1/2 and is still in one. He is skinny (41 lbs) but extremely tall. We have a seat with extended height/weight limits, but he is going to reach the height limit fairly soon. I am dreading that day. I just feel like he's so much safer in a 5 pt harness!

  21. DS is rear facing at 26 months, and will continue to do so until he's outgrown his seats. We have a Radian XTSL, which is a very tall seat, and it has a RF limit of 45 pounds! He has about 4 inches of torso growth left before he's too tall for it. I figure he'll make it at least until 4 before we have to turn him FF.

    The Safety First Complete Air has the tallest shell of all, and can RF kids up to age 5. It's inexpensive, often on sale for about $150.

    Our other seat is a Britax Boulevard, which I mostly like. However, Britax seats have pretty short shells, and give VERY little leg room to RF toddlers. DS can stretch out in the Radian, but keeps his legs bent in the Britax.

    To a PP who said she is comfortable keeping her little one FF because he's in the “safest” seat…. Even the most expensive seat will NOT keep a child's heavy head from whipping forward in a frontal collision, risking severe injury or death. I'd choose to RF a 1 year old in a $45 Scenera over FF him in a $365 Boulevard any day, hands down.

    For great car seat safety info, check out Car-Seat.Org and the Family Safety forum on Mothering.com.

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