Tag Archives: bestpractices

Car Seat Law Changes for 2017: California Requires Rear-Facing Until 2

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

extend2fit - 1    pacifica

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)

graco-mysize-65  contender - 1

The Graco MySize 65 – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Graco Size4Me 65 – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Graco Contender – Review Here, Buy Here.

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.

If you find the information on car safety, recommended car seats, and car seat reviews on this car seat blog helpful, you can bookmark and shop through this Amazon link. Canadians can bookmark and shop through this link.

When Can Children Ride In the Front Seat? For Safety, Not Until 13!

Just because your kids say all their friends ride in the front seat doesn't mean they're ready to.
Just because their friends and older siblings ride in the front seat doesn’t mean they’re ready to.

I’ve written extensively about the benefits of extended rear-facing, reasons to keep kids harnessed well into the elementary school years if possible, and why to keep older children in booster seats until they pass the five-step test for seat belt readiness. However, many parents of older children (or those simply looking ahead) wonder what comes next. Can kids sit in the front seat as soon as they’re ready for adult seat belts?

Not necessarily. Let’s take a closer look at why in this article.
When should children ride in the front seat?

The blunt truth is that the safest place in a car for children, teenagers, and adults of any age is in the back seat. Specifically, the center seat of the farthest rear row possible is, statistically speaking, the safest seat in a passenger vehicle. However, most children and teenagers aren’t going to want to sit in the back forever, even if it’s the safer choice, so what’s the next best thing? To keep kids in the back seat at least until they turn 13.  This is a recommendation directly from the NHTSA.

Why should parents wait until 13, instead of 12, 11, etc, or even 14 or 15 or older?

Waiting until 13 is important because this is a threshold at which most children will generally already have passed the 5-step test for seat belt use, meaning most parents who do nothing else but wait this long before placing their kids in the front row will have a very high chance of having children who can safely use the seat belt in the front row. Additionally, the significant amount of force used in frontal airbags is significantly less likely to severely injure or kill children once they have a certain amount of mass, height, and bone strength; these 3 factors are more likely to be achieved when most children are at least 13 than at earlier ages.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s quite correct that kids are likely to be in even better strength and shape, physically speaking, at 14 or 15 than at 13, and as noted above, I do believe it would be better to prioritize placing teens and adults in the back seat over the front seat at any age. However, it’s also important to honor and respect the growing autonomy of adolescents, which means each family must find its balance between safety and practicality. To put it simply, if your teens are okay staying in the back seats past 13, by all means do so. It’s unquestionably safer for them than it is for them to be in the front seat. But if you can’t or don’t want to head in that direction, then draw the line at 13.
But I want to speak to my child / reward them / provide them with driving experience / etc!

All of these reasons are frequently chosen by parents who sit their < 13-year-old children in the front row, and as a parent, I understand them. It’s easier to speak to someone beside you than behind you, it’s an easy and effective way of rewarding a child for good behavior, it can promote closeness, and it can also give a child a chance to see what you’re doing as you drive before s/he is ready to get behind the wheel. However, none of these reasons are compelling enough to override the increased safety risk of placing children in the front row before necessary.

Regarding the driving reason in particular…teenagers will learn far more from watching you drive at 16 than they will at 13, much less at 12 or 11 or 10. Certain things are easier to teach at certain stages of development, and cognitively, a 16-year-old will be much more likely to absorb relevant safety lessons related to driving than will a 13-year-old. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk to your teen or tween or child about safe driving practices; I started talking to my oldest child about street safety and parking lot safety when she was 1, if not earlier. However, it does mean that you shouldn’t use osmosis as an excuse to place your child in a more dangerous seating position before necessary.

What if my child points out that his/her friends or older siblings are / were sitting in the front seat at (insert age under 13)?

This is one of the most frequently attributed reasons for bypassing the guideline of keeping kids in the back seat until 13. Many parents would prefer to keep their kids in the back seat but move them forward early because of peer pressure. They either hear from their children, or at times from other parents, family members, or even co-workers, that “all” kids were sitting in the front seat by their kids’ age, and that it’s silly, impractical, or unreasonable to expect a child older than 12, 11, 10, 9, etc to sit in the back seat. What do you do then?

Well, you’ve got to make a decision at that point. There are a lot of things in our society related to the safety and welfare of people in relation to the automobile where the societal pressure is to prioritize the automobile over people. Rear-facing past 1 is inconvenient; harnessing past 5 is silly. Booster seats aren’t even required! Everyone speeds! One drink doesn’t make you drunk! Why would you walk or bike when you could drive? It goes on and on.

What’s prudent isn’t always popular. Best practices are often buzzkills. Waiting until 13 is safer, and no one will value the life of your child more than you will.

Remember – avoid driving if you can. If you have to drive, do so as little as possible in the safest vehicles possible, while doing so as safely as possible. And you’ll cut your driving risk a lot more quickly and effectively by reducing your miles, following the speed limit like your life depends on it, never, ever, ever drinking before driving, buckling up as consistently as you breathe, and keeping kids restrained safely through all the stages of child development than you will by buying any passenger vehicle on the market.

If you find the information on car safety, recommended car seats, and car seat reviews on this car seat blog helpful, you can bookmark and shop through this Amazon link. Canadians can bookmark and shop through this link.