Since the earliest days of this blog, I’ve written about how rear-facing is the safest orientation for children when traveling in passenger vehicles. Unfortunately, the laws in most states throughout the US are far behind best practice. In Sweden and Norway, the standard is to rear face until 4, and both countries enjoy the lowest rates of child traffic fatalities on the globe. In the US, in contrast, most states only require children to rear-face until 1. However, little by little, we’re making steps toward better practice around the country, and as of 2017, there are now 4 states that require children to rear-face until at least 2 years of age: New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and now California. This is great news!
Wait…why is rear-facing a big deal? What’s wrong with forward-facing at 1?
As a reminder, here are a series of articles on the importance of rear-facing and the safety benefits it brings children:
Why Rear-Face Your Car Seats Past Age 2? – A review of the safety benefits of extended rear facing.
Rear-Facing vs. Forward-Facing Car Seats: What Happens in a Crash? – A video description of the various forces placed on children rear-vs forward-facing.
Top 5 Tips for Surviving Extended-Rear Facing with Toddlers – Suggestions to make the process of rear-facing more bearable during an unbearable age.
3 out of 4 parents forward-face too early: Don’t join them! – A review of a recent study investigating patterns of rear-vs forward-facing in parents.
The Orphan Seat: 3 Huge Rear-Facing Advantages for Kids – An explanation of the “orphan seat” phenomenon and additional reasons to rear-face.
But if rear-facing until 4 or more is so important, why the celebration of states moving from 1 to 2?
Of course, rear-facing until 2 still isn’t nearly as good as rear-facing until 3, which is still not quite as good as rear-facing until 4, but progress often comes in small steps, especially in a nation with so many different people and ways of thought. If you’re reading this blog, you already know how important it is to rear-face for as long as possible, but the majority of parents in the United States or Canada aren’t reading this blog, and have no idea about why they might possibly want to keep their children facing backwards a minute longer than they’re legally required to. These are the folks who will be helped by these laws–as well as their children, of course. Because even if they don’t rear-face past 2, they’ll still have increased the safety of their children for another critical year, and given how much safer it is to rear-face than it is to forward-face, every year counts.
Bravo California! Bravo Oklahoma! Bravo New Jersey, and Bravo Pennsylvania! I look forward to reporting on more states’ steps toward better, if not best, practices around the country.
Which seats can I use to rear-face until 4? Most seats I see seem too small!
High End Seats for Rear-Facing to 50 pounds
The Graco Extend2Fit – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Clek Fllo – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Diono Rainier – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Clek Foonf – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Diono Pacifica – Review Here, Buy Here.
These are the five best car seats available today in the United States when it comes to extended rear-facing. Any of these seats will allow you to rear-face just about any child from birth until age 5, and any of these seats will also allow you to forward your face afterward for some amount of time.
The Graco Extend2Fit is the best value for your money if you’re purely interested in rear-facing for the longest amount of time, as it features the highest effective height limit when rear-facing. The Dionos are the best value for the money if you’re looking to maximize the time you spend between buying car seats, as both offer longer forward-facing usable times than the Clek seats, and also include booster modes, even though those modes aren’t going to be useful for some kids. The advantage of the Clek seats is that they’re as narrow as convertible car seats get, which means it’s possible to fit them 3 across in just about any vehicle.
My favorite seat of the five is the Fllo, followed by the Rainier and Extend2Fit, but you can’t go wrong with any of them. No seats on the market will allow you to rear-face longer than these 4, and since rear-facing is the safest position we can place our children in whenever traveling with them in a vehicle, this is where you want to be if you can afford it in terms of child safety.
Remember to pick up the infant insert as well if you’re buying one of the Cleks and want to use them from the day you leave the hospital, otherwise you’ll need to wait until your child has head control and can sit up independently. Similarly, if you’re buying one of the Dionos, make sure to pick up an angle adjuster so you’ll have a reasonable amount of room when driving or sitting as a passenger in the front row of your vehicle.
Four Great Seats for Rear-Facing to 40 pounds
The Britax Advocate ClickTight – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Britax Boulevard ClickTight – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Britax Marathon ClickTight – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Chicco NextFit – Review Here, Buy Here.
The 40 pound convertible seat market is packed, but these seats stand out time and time again. They all have astronomically high seat backs, which means that your children are all but guaranteed to reach the 40 pound weight limit before they need to be forward-faced. Of the seats, the Advocate offers the best side impact protection, while I think the Boulevard or NextFit are the best value.
3 Great Extended Rear Facing Seats on a Budget (i.e., at or under $150)
When it comes to absolute value for rear-facing, you can’t get any better than the Graco clones, including the MySize 65 (which is almost exactly the same seat as the Head Wise 65), the Size4Me 65, and the Contender. In fact, these are my three favorite convertibles, bar none, under $150. I have all three seats installed in family vehicles right now, and between the three, the main differences are that the MySize 65 has more side impact protection and head support, while the Size4Me feels a bit bony in comparison due to the thinner fabrics used. The Contender only comes with one set of LATCH anchors and takes up a bit more space when rear-facing. As a result, I’d choose the MySize or Size4Me over the Contender if you can afford it. All three seats are great, however, and come with exactly the same height and weight limits.
Now that I know this is important, what’s next?
Please remember that you don’t need to wait for your state to legislate best or even better practices before you begin to put them into practice with your children, in your family, among your friends, and in your community. You can become an advocate for children’s safety and for the welfare of our youngest citizens. If you see a child unsafely restrained, say something! You could save a life, or at the very least, start a conversation or prompt a parent to think about what s/he’s doing a bit more carefully. Every action has the potential to make a long-lasting difference, and we never know where our influence ends.
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