Children's Hospital Says Car Seat Bill Meets Doctor Recommendations

There's a possible change in the law for how children are strapped into car seats.

Right now, state law and doctors recommendations are at odds when it comes to rear-facing car seats for children.

Wisconsin law states children must be in a rear-facing car seat until one year of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and AAA recommend children stay in rear-facing car seats until two years of age.
A bill addressing those differences passed in the state assembly yesterday and child safety advocates hope the guidelines will become law.  The Senate is now free to take up the bill.

The bill says children must be rear facing until age two. Representative Amy Loudenbeck is one of the bill's authors.

"We're working with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Automobile Association, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All of those recommendations are saying rear facing until the age of two is five times safer," said Rep. Loudenbeck.

She adds the recommendations shouldn't be a surprise to parents.

"Anyone that's been in their pediatricians office or been to a car seat inspection station is probably already hearing this, but why would we have a law that doesn't mimic what all the industry professionals and safety experts are saying," said Rep. Loudenbeck.

Jane Howard, an injury prevention supervisor with Children's Hospital of Wisconsin says rear-facing is important for a baby's development.

"...parents, they need to make that decision. So, we tell them what they law is; we tell them that's a minimum... then we give them our recommendations as a hospital as to how to keep their child the safest which is keeping them rear facing for longer.

"A big reason is because the younger a child is, the larger their head is in proportion to the rest of their body. So the more we can cradle them and keep them rear-facing, they just take the crash better, and they're a lot more safe," said Howard.

It isn't until age two that the child will be developed enough in their spine to withstand the crash. A big baby doesn't make a difference; in this case, safety depends on their age. 

"Just because a child is bigger or heavier does not mean that it's safe to turn them around," said Howard. 

If parents believe their child under two has grown out of a rear-facing seat, Howard says you should upgrade to a convertible car seat. Some manufacturer's seats hold children up to 50 lbs. Howard adds it is also safe to have kids push their feet on the seat, cross them, or hang them off the sides.

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