Rear-Facing Car Seats and Safety — Updated!

Hi Readers: There is so much to ponder in this amazing column from the Herald-Mail in Maryland titled, “When It Comes to Protecting Kids, We Have It All Backward.” Yes, it was inspired by the new American Academy of Pediatrics’ recent dictum that children should be kept in rear-facing car seats until age 2. Personally, I don’t get how that even works. Do we cut off their legs? (This would also prevent them from running in the street. Win/win!)

But the columnist, Tim Rowland, takes the idea a step farther with these thoughts:

Today, being a child is like being a hostage; the first two years of your life are spent blindfolded and tied to a chair. Great. Along with being safer, it also prepares the tyke for future airline travel.

But we wonder why the real world seems too much of a challenge to the young people of today. Is it really that hard to figure? “What do you mean I have to get a job on my own? Aren’t you going to wrap me in straps and blankets and transport me to a hardened-plastic workplace?”

You know, on reflection, maybe a car seat isn’t safe enough, either. Maybe we should just leave them in the hospital until they’re ready to start first grade.

As you can tell, I have conflicting feelings about safety. You can’t have too much of it — except that you can. You can protect against every contingency — except that you can’t.

That last paragraph sums up my own feelings about safety pretty exactly. As you know, I LOVE safety and hate courting danger for danger’s sake. But there is such a thing as TOO safe. There’s the safety that protects kids in only the most extreme and unlikely circumstances, but manages to restrict their daily lives just about completely. And there’s the safety we are encouraged to pursue that is almost superstitious. And there is the notion out there that if we just pass enough laws and buy enough gadgets and curtail enough activities and hover close enough to our kids, nothing bad will EVER happen. Which conveniently neglects the truth about fate, AND encourages the blaming of parents when ANYTHING goes wrong.

Long story short: I liked this guy’s column.  — L

UPDATE: Okay! After looking at the slo-mo videos of rear-facing car crash dummies — yikes! — I believe I would abide by the new guidelines if my kids were younger. In fact, my mom employed some kind of prot0 carseat when I was two, and this saved me when we tumbled off the highway.  Seatbelts saved her and my cousin. So I have always advocated for car seats (see statement on the left of my page that has been there since the beginning of this blog!). The reason I liked the column I quote here is that it uses this new edict as a jumping off point for asking if there is ever a point at which “very, very safe” is safe enough. Perhaps there isn’t, at least not when ensuring the extra safety involves something as simple as a new car seat position.  But it’s a question I ask a lot. Should we require videocameras on all rear bumpers? Should we redesign the hotdog? Should we get rid of trampolines? Does it ever make sense not to embrace new safety notions?

I don’t have the answer to all these questions but I do love trying to figure out what makes sense,  and what doesn’t. So while kids are already very safe in car seats — something to remember! —  you have convinced me that the rear-facing seat protects kids without changing childhood.  Let’s figure out everything else! — L