Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is rear facing safe when you're rear ended?

That is a question that gets asked alot when we try to explain the benefits of rear facing. I'm sure you've read my post about Anne's crash. Well, now I'm going to tell you about Rachel's crash.



Rachel's family was traveling in their 2005 Toyota Sienna. She was traveling with her husband, and 3 sons. Her oldest, T1 was 3.5 years old and riding rear facing passenger's side 3rd row in a Radian 80SL. Her middle son, T2 was 2.5 years old and riding rear facing driver's side in the 3rd row in a Radian 80SL. Her youngest, T3 was 13 months and riding rear facing in the 2nd row in a Combi Coccoro.


They were on the highway and saw traffic had stopped ahead because of a crash. As any attentive driver would do, they slowed to a stop. Unfortunately, the tractor trailer behind them didn't have time to stop. He swerved onto the shoulder to avoid hitting the Sienna in front of him. When he swerved, he jackknifed and the trailer hit the Sienna at an estimated 50mph.

This is what Rachel's van looked like






See the vehicle headrest sticking out of the back window? That is the 3rd row center seat. T2 was sitting on the driver's side. See how smashed in that is? T2 was rear facing, in a rear end collision. T2 had the ONLY injuries in the car.


(ignore the crayon in his hand). He had 12 stitches in his forehead. The paramedics couldn't believe the child sitting there survived.

Rachel is not a Child Passenger Safety Technician. Rachel is a Mom that wants the best for her children. She knew to keep her children rear facing. She knew how to make sure she was using and installing her seats properly. What she did, saved her sons lives. All 3 boys were rear facing, and all 3 boys walked away from the crash. So my answer is yes, rear facing is still safe in a rear end collision. If you have any questions as to whether or not your carseat is used and/or installed properly, please visit a CPST and have it checked.

When you're involved in a crash, it is usually safest to leave the child buckled in their seat. The carseat acts like a built in body board, and the paramedics should try to remove the entire seat with child still in it. However, sometimes you need to remove the child. Rachel commented that she took the boys out of their seats for a few reasons.
"There was gas on the ground from another vehicle and they were terrified. They were screaming and trying to unbuckle and get out and I just... I couldn't leave them there. I couldn't leave T2 pinned to his seat with a hunk of metal in his face. Also we couldn't get the big boys seats out, I tried for a few seconds but gave up."

Rescuers were amazed that they all walked away. Here is another quote from Rachel:
"Yeah, I don't understand how we are all ok. Especially T2... every single person coming on scene thought they were dealing with at LEAST a medvac, if not a casualty. People didn't believe us when we told them the 2 year old I was holding that kept shrieking "I can't want a bandaid!!!!!" was the kid sitting there"
T2 is in the blue shirt in this picture.


(Rachel was 7 months pregnant at the time of the crash)


43 comments:

Anne/kq said...

Rachel's crash demonstrates SO well one of the lesser-touted benefits of rear-facing- it places the child's head, the most vulnerable part, toward the center of the vehicle, inside it's protective cage, during the initial impact, the most severe part of the crash- no matter where that impact is, to the front, the rear, or the side- allowing the vehicle to protect the rear-facing occupant.

And for those who worry about legs, note that even in a severe rear-impact crash, with his legs right there at point of impact, they were unharmed!

I am so glad Rachel knows how to keep her kids as safe as possible!

Elizabeth said...

I also am like the mom in this story I take my carseat saftey very serious my son is 2.5 and still rearfaceing I was planning on turning him on his 3rd birthday but due to this story I will be buying a seat that will last until he can not sit in it any more :) Thank you for the push!

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to read that everyone is okay.
Can you elaborate on why being rear facing was better? What would have happened to him if he had been forward facing in the same car seat?

CarseatNanny said...

Annonymous,
Like Anne/KQ posted above, rear facing put his head closer to the center of the vehicle. He likely would have had more severe injuries, likely head injuries had he been forward facing. The headrest that is seen sticking out the rear windshield is the seat right next to his, so his head would have been next to that, where all the crumpling is. He also may have had severe neck injuries.

CarseatNanny said...

Elizabeth, that is wonderful! My daughter was rear facing until 4 years old, and still rear facing frequently after that.

Kim said...

it's stories like this that help me keep my own kids rear facing as long as possible!! Thanks very much for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

So glad everyone was okay!! My almost 3 year old is still rearfacing and will be until he outgrows his radian sl65! He is very tall 97th% with a long torsoso the right carseat is a must. It's stories like this that helps me know I'm making the best, most safe decision for him. Thanks for sharing this story.
Karen

Theresa said...

I just purchased a new carseat for my 13 month old daughter. She is only 17lbs and I was told by her pediatrician to keep her RF. I was going to keep her RF until she was 2 anyway, but this story just made me decide to keep her there longer. Her carseat allows for her to be RF until she is 40lbs, so I say about 7 years old, LOL!!! She will stay that way, regardless of what people think and / or say to me about her now being able to FF. I'd rather be safe than sorry if I ever get in an accident and I don't know how I'd be able to deal with the consequences if I get into an accident with her FF, and knowing I did it mainly for "convenience".

Kendra said...

my lo is nine months and now in need of a bigger carset. i can not afford a Britax or a raidan. I have been looking at the graco My 65 convertabler. How does this compare? os there a consumer site where I can compare carseats?
Thx

CABASW said...

I am so glad to see this and that all are ok.. I am a huge promoter of rear facing and car seat safety. This is great.. And the My Ride 65 is a good seat.. go to www.car-seat.org for more infor on seats they have a lot of great knowledge on there

Peggy Graham said...

Kendra, all car seats on the market have to meet the same crash test requirements, and the testing is pass/fail, so there is no way to say that any seat is "safer" than any other. Any seat used correctly is safe, and a seat that allows your child to stay rear-facing is by far the safest.

You don't have to buy a Britax or a Radian to keep your child safe; nor do you need to feel that you are compromising your child's safety by using a less expensive seat. The MyRide is an excellent choice, as are the Safety First Complete Air and the Learning Curve True Fit, just to name a few.

Good job doing your research to keep your precious little one safe!

CarseatNanny said...

Kendra, I agree with Peggy. The Radian and Britax seats are nice, but they are not for everyone. The Graco My Ride is a very nice seat, and I'm sad that my daughter has finally outgrown it.

clov878 said...

Since all seats pass the same exact testing, the safest seat out there is the one that is installed properly and used properly every single ride. If I had to place my child in a properly installed/used $40 seat or a $300 seat with questionable install/usage, I'd take the $40 seat all day long, every day of the week. As others have commented, the Graco MyRide is a great seat, with some very generous rear-facing limits (because, we know, rear-facing, for as long as possible, is the safest way for our children to ride) and it's fairly easy on the wallet. The Learning Curve/First Years/Lamaze True Fit is one of my favorite seats out there - also pretty easy on the wallet. It's also got a generous shell, so rear-facing (and, later, forward-facing) there's plenty of growing room. Something to take note to, which may, or may not be an issue - depending on your child's individual growth - is the rear-facing weight limit is "only" 35 lbs.

clov878 said...

Thanks for the well-written piece, CarSeatNanny. So glad Rachel and the boys walked away. Her story, and Anne's, are real-life examples/evidence that being informed and making those choices to keep our kiddos safest in the car can, and do, make a difference.

Sarah D. said...

I understand why rear facing in the third row would be safer, but what about in the middle row? Or in a car where the back seat is basically in the middle of the car. What difference would it really make then, as long as the kid is in the center most protected area of the car?

CABASW said...

Sarah D its also about the childs body especially the spine and the way an impact could affect a child's body. Rear facing has a lesser impact on the body and the way it absorbs a hit.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that RFing is generally safer than FFing let remember that 2 cases are not enough data to draw conclusions on. Are there any large scale studies of RF vs. FF in children over age 2? What about the height of the car seat vs. injury rate. Are kids safer when their heads are further from the roof? All questions we should answer based on data and not anecdote before we recommend everyone keeping their children rear facing as long as possible.

Jen said...

Can someone help me understand where a larger child's legs fit with rear facing? Our car seat is up to 45 lbs rear facing but our 4 yr old legs would have no where to fit. Is there something I'm missing? Thanks. Glad the kids were all ok!!!!!

CarseatNanny said...

Jen, children will find a place to pit their legs. They will either pit their legs up the back of the seat, sit cross cross, frog legged, or put their legs over the sides of the seat.

Anonymous said...

Jenn, kids can put their legs "indian style" (sorry for the outdated term - many people don't know what I'm talking about when I say "criss-cross") or if there aren't other car seats next to them, they can swing their legs over the sides of the seat. If they don't know any different, they won't complain about their legs not being able to dangle like they do FF - that's just how they sit in the car!

Anonymous said...

The benefits of rear vs forward facing in this story were not explained at all. My kids were turned at 1 before the new recommendations, but my daughter just turned 4 and it wouldn't even cross my mind to turn her back around. She's taller than most 5-year-olds. You can talk about criss-cross or frog legs all you want. But at some point that is going to get very uncomfortable, especially if you have a child who is big for their age.

CABASW said...

Just came across this in a search, really puts it into perspective
Rear Facing
96% injury reducing effect
8% risk of severe injuries
50Kg neck loads in a 30mph crash
Forward Facing
77% Injury reducting effect
40% risk of severe injuries
300Kg neck loads in a 30mph crash

the 32% differenc in the severe injuries really makes it real as does the 250Kg difference in how much it affects the neck.

5 times safer for children under 4yrs to travel rear facing.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous, my son will turn 4 next month and is still happily rear-facing. He is around the 90% for height and weight and has never complained - not even a single time! So it is definitely possible for larger kids to stay rear-facing. He will be that way until he hits the 45 lb limit on his seat. He sits cross-legged, lets his legs drape over the side of his seat (the Radian he uses has low "wings" on the bottom), or sticks them up on the back seat.

Mama Love said...

To the people asking for proof of why RF is better than FF in a crash, take a moment and look at crash test videos on youtube. Search for rear facing versus forward facing. You will see exactly why rear facing protects your child. Its not even about the place your child's head is, while that is a benefit, its how the body slides up the car seat in RF impact, versus how the body flops like a rag doll forward when FF. Just look at the footage. You will no longer question it, and if you have a child who hasn't maxed out the weight on their car seat for RF, you will definitely turn them around so they can RF as long as the seat allows.

Anonymous said...

Im pretty sure i just changed my mind on whats safer. that crash was bananas!! im glad to hear they are all ok. im telling my sister about this. she has two girls. a 1 yr old and a 3 going on 4 yr old. my nieces are my life and i feel stupid for putting the oldest in a front facer. the baby has always been rear facing tho. thanks for telling your story to the world. i hope this saves more lives!

Anonymous said...

I have a 4.5,' 2.5 and 9 mo all three are ff cuz of their weight hieght and comfort. My 4.5 is in a booster and my 2.5 who is as tall and 2 lbs heavier than my 4.5 is in a booster with a back or large toddler seat. In a van or car RF maybe "ideal" but in a king cab truck its almost impossible
I'm glad everyone is OK from this tragic wreck.

Anna said...

My 2.5 year old is tall, likke the size of a 5 year old and weighs about 46lbs. He is too big for RF. I will not tourcher him like that plain and simple. Take into account how small her trunk is! I know Im not the only mom with a huge trunk! This proves to me GOD was watching over them and GOD has plans for that family. Im very glad that family all survived but if it was really nessicary to have your child RF until they are 4 then that would be a law and they would have carseats that were bigger for those kids. I know not everyone agrees with me but It makes me quite upset that youre a "bad mom" if your child is not rear facing until theyre 4. Sorry for offending anybody but those are my beliefs!

Meggs said...

My son is RF at 8 months and 10kg, but unfortunately will probably not be able to much longer. :(

I am in Australia and our laws state that babies must RF for a minimum 6 months only. There are no seats on the market here that allow bubs to RF much past 12kg. It makes me feel sick after reading stories like this.

There is very little education here about the benefits of RF longer, and a lot of parent see car seats as simply a way for bubs to see out of the window!

CarseatNanny said...

Anonymous, I am absolutely sure you can at least have your youngest rear facing in the king cab truck. Please visit www.car-seat.org and they will have more info on trucks and can help you. It is not even legal in the us to have you 9 month old forward facing, let alone safe.

Ann,
No one is saying you're a bad mother for having your 2 year old forward facing. If he has reached the limits of the carseats, that's all you can do. Seats are getting bigger to accommodate bigger and older children. We have laws set as minimums not maximums. Some states say it's legal for a 4 year old to ride without a booster but that certain doesn't mean it's safe.

Megg,
I do know that seats have low limits in Australia :( is it possible tomimport from another country?

sce said...

To Anonymous with the King Cab truck. Even in compact cars, there are seats that fit RF and thus would also fit in the backseat of a truck. As well, with your 2.5 and 4.5 yo please consider putting them back in harnessed seats (vs boosters)even if they remain ff. They may be big but size is not the only issue.

KatiePress said...

RE: Anonymous with the king cab truck- would you mind sharing what make/model of truck you have?
I used to have a Chevy Colorado crew cab, they are not large trucks by any means. I had Britax marathons rear facing behind the driver and passenger seat with no issues at all.

I would also urge you to turn your 9 month old baby back rear facing ASAP. Not only is it very unsafe for him/her to be forward facing, it is also 100% ILLEGAL to do so. The law is 1 year AND 20 lbs, not either or. Since your baby is only 9 months old he/she does not meet those requirements.
Please visit the forums on car-seat.org, there are many very helpful certified car seat techs who can help you out with your individual situation!!

Anonymous said...

So glad everyone was ok. This is why I'm keeping my 16 month old RF for as long as possible. I'm also keeping my 4yr old harnessed for as long as possible. I take car seat saftey very seriously. My friends and family think I'm crazy, but my children are counting on me to keep them as safe as possible in the car. I will show them this and maybe then they will see why my daughter is still RF.

Anonymous said...

What happens in a situation like this as a child gets older and changes to forward facing? I dont mean to sound ignorant, but i have a 5 year old who sits forward facing and want him to be safe! When does it become safe for them to be forward facing?

Anonymous said...

i had an accident the day after my son's 3rd birthday....it was an impact on his side & a roll over onto the side where he was seated. He was in a FF with the 5pt harness,he had a skull fx but was treated & released from the ER. His injuries could have been worse if he was in a booster. And he sat in a FF till the he reached the weight limit & booster till about the age of 7 and this is why my youngest son (age 6) is still n a FF car seat with harness weighing 45lbs, the seat can accommodate up to 80lbs. I cringed when my brother recently moved my 3.5 yr old nephew to a booster especially when the FF car seats have such higher weight limits on them now :(

Anonymous said...

What a miracle they all survived! We were rearened not a year ago and if a child had been forward facing in the rear of our van ....likely would have not made it! The extra distance the boys had in this crash from the rear protected them so much.

Were there any injuries that showed up later? several of us have had/need surgery. ( joints etc torn shoulders, elbows, and kneck back pain)

Anonymous said...

What a miracle they all survived! We were rearened not a year ago and if a child had been forward facing in the rear of our van ....likely would have not made it! The extra distance the boys had in this crash from the rear protected them so much.

Were there any injuries that showed up later? several of us have had/need surgery. ( joints etc torn shoulders, elbows, and kneck back pain)

Tara S said...

thank you for this, i immediately turned my two year old (who is very tiny) back around and cleaned out my car so there were no objects that could hit them, like toys or sippy cups. and i make sure my phone and purse are secured away as well. my husband said that my two year old is going to cry because he won't be able to see the tv like his older brother and sister ( who are 3 and 5 but i checked their seats-britax boulevard- and they just went over the weight for rf), and i told him i would rather have him alive and pissed that he can't watch Max and Ruby than him dead for watching a stupid show!! again, thanks for the article and opening my eyes back up!!

Kimberly said...

I turned my eldest FF at 13 months because I didn't know any better. When I was expecting my second son I did a lot of research on car seats and turned my eldest back RF at 27 months. He had no problems RF even at 99th percentile for height. When we did eventually turn him back FF the only big difference is he became a horrible backseat driver. My second is still happily RF at 18 months and has plenty of room in his Complete Air and True Fit car seats.

Anonymous said...

I need help & fast on what time of carseat to buy my daughter. Rachel had her 3 1/2 yr old rear faced but my 2 1/2 yr old is reaching the limits of being rear faced. should I forward face her? she will be 31 months in 2 days & is 33 lbs & 39 in tall. what kind of carseat should i get her? she is 1 of 2 children we are buying for so im kind of on a budget.

CarseatNanny said...

Please email me at carseatnanny @ yahoo . Com. Send me info on your car, current seats, and ages and weight of both children. I will be happy to help you.

Tobica Elaison said...

I wish I could rear face my son longer, but he has outgrown his carseat by height and weight now. 90th percentile for height and weight at 3 yrs old, he's 40" and 40lbs. So glad these boys were ok!

Momto4kids said...

@ Anonymous with the king cab truck: If you are in the states, your child that is 9months is riding illegally as well as your 2.5 year old in most states. Those states require you to be harnessed until at least 4. I do not understand why you would put your child at such a risk. Where are you located, what kind of truck, and what are their current seats and shirt sizes and weights? I know that many of us can help you with finding seats that will work with your children and not break the bank.

Anonymous said...

I know this is quite an old post, but I was wondering if you could answer this question. It appears that the seats were tethered, since they all seem to be in place. KQ made the point that rear facing kept their heads toward the center of the car. Had they not been tethered, would that still be the case? Wouldn't their seats (and heads) been thrown back toward the impact otherwise? So it seems that it was the combination of rearfacing with a tether that really made the difference.