Forward-Facing Child Safety Seats
Forward-Facing Child Safety Seats
Stephanie Tombrello (Child Passenger Safety Educator & Executive Director, SafetyBeltSafe USA) gives expert video advice on: At what age can my child use a forward-facing child safety seat?; How do I secure my child in a forward-facing child safety seat? and more...
At what age can my child use a forward-facing child safety seat?
Many parents will see materials that state that when a child is a year old and weighs twenty pounds, it's “time” to turn them forward. That was true when we didn't have any safety seats that went beyond twenty to twenty-two pounds rear-facing. Today all convertible safety seats are certified for use to at least thirty pounds rear facing. We do not recommend turning the child forward until you have used a convertible seat as long as possible; have as an estimate at least 18 to 24 months. Many children can stay in a safety seat rear facing much longer than that, and do that if you can because you are increasing your child's protection in that case of both frontal and side impacts, and these are the crashes in which children are hurt or killed. In these crashes, children have over seventy percent of their injuries to the head and neck, and we are still not very good at fixing brain damage. So, give your child the best break and use the safety seat rear-facing as long as possible.
Can I secure my child safety seat to my side-facing jump seat?
You can never use a safety seat properly in a side-facing seat. In many pickup trucks, especially the small ones, the back seat is actually a pair of side-facing jump seats. We don't recommend side-facing seats for anyone. Safety seats are not tested except on a forward-facing vehicle seat, so they're never legally used on a side-facing seat or a rear-facing seat.
Can I secure my child safety seat to my front-facing jump seats?
If the pickup truck has front-facing jump seats, then the question is, "does the safety seat fit there?" We recommend that at least 8% of the base of the safety seat be supported by the vehicle seat, and, in some pickup trucks, the designers have put little tables or almost like beverage holders that are designed to take part of the weight of the safety seat. And they will tell you in the owner's manual, "put this down before you put the safety seat in." The next question is, "does the safety seat fit there?" We're not concerned with a rear-facing safety seat touching the back of the front seat. However, if you have a newborn, you may not be able to get that 45-degree angle to allow the child's head to lie back naturally. Sometimes you can make the safety seat fit properly if it's an infant carseat that can be used with or without the detachable base. Remove the base, make sure that the handle is either allowed to be fully up or fully down in the driving position, and you may find that you can get the space so that the seat will fit in there. When the child's older and can sit more upright then you may not have the same kinds of problems, even though the seat is rear-facing. We also find in some of the smaller pickup trucks that children in forward-facing seats have a problem because their legs are so jammed up against the front seat that they're literally uncomfortable. And an uncomfortable child is not a happy passenger. So you want to check for that as well. Tethering a forward-facing seat in a pickup truck is especially important. Some of the data show that children who are forward-facing in the back of a small pickup truck have a much higher rate of injury because many people do not tether them and some of the older pickup trucks don't have tether anchors and people have not put them in. So those are the kinds of factors to think about.