Car seats are crucial in keeping your baby safe inside the car. Period.
Car seats can be expensive, but think of it as an investment for your child’s future.
Unfortunately, it is safe to say it's ignored by many Filipino families, which is why it was great when when Republic Act 11229, or the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act, was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019.
If you're buying one (we’ve rounded up options that your child can use until he is 12 years old here), you should consider the proper way of installing it in the car as well as the correct way to position your baby while in the seat.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), all babies should be in a rear-facing car seat until they reach 2 years old or until they have reached the weight and height recommendation of their car seat manufacturer. This is very important, and a recent study has proven that this is the best and safest option, especially if your car is hit from behind.
Researchers from Ohio State University conducted crash tests with different rear-facing car seats to investigate whether features like a carry handle position and anti-rebound bars really help in the event of a crash that happens from behind the car. Their findings showed that when used correctly, all were effective because they “absorbed crash forces while controlling the motion of the child.”
“Even though the child is facing the direction of the impact, it doesn’t mean that a rear-facing car seat isn’t going to do its job,” says Julie Mansfield in a press release posted in the school’s website. Mansfield is a research engineer and the study’s lead author. “It [the car seat] still has lots of different features and mechanisms to absorb that crash energy and protect the child.”
Previous research focused on front and side impact crashes, so Mansfield’s team is breaking ground with their study. Apart from the safety features, Mansfield adds that a rear-facing seat will be able to support your child’s head, neck, and spine, and keep vulnerable body regions well protected. “These regions are especially vulnerable in newborns and younger children whose spine and vertebrae haven’t fused and fully developed yet,” she says.
Their data is aligned with the AAP’s updated recommendations on car seats. “A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck, and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body,” says Dr. Dennis Durbin, who was the lead author of the AAP report. “For larger children, a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, and a belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly.”
Proof that car seats save lives: In July 2017, a car carrying TV host-actress Jolina Magdangal and her family was in full stop when it got rammed from behind by a van whose driver had fallen asleep. While the impact shattered their car’s rear windshield and the van’s front windshield, none of the passengers, including Pele, Jolina’s son, were harmed.
“Thank God walang nangyari kay Pele,” wrote Mark Escueta, Jolina’s husband, in a Facebook post. “Naka car seat and seatbelt siya palagi kapag bumabiyahe kami. He did not even cry.”
Shortly after the accident, he also posted a photo with Pele saying that a car seat saved “my silly son’s life and that’s a fact!”
Kids in preschool age may be transitioned into a forward-facing position when in a car seat, but “these transitions should be delayed until they’re necessary or when the child fully outgrows the limits for his or her current stage,” reminds Dr. Durbin.
“The ‘age 2’ recommendation is not a deadline, but rather a guideline to help parents decide when to make the transition. Smaller children will benefit from remaining rear-facing longer, while other children may reach the maximum height or weight before 2 years of age,” he says.
This story was updated at 11:30 a.m., on February 3, 2021