Using a rear-facing car seat until a child is two years old reduces risk of serious injury but close to one-quarter of parents in the US turn the seat around before their child is even a year old, shows a survey.
In March 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines for child passenger safety, extending the recommendation for rear-facing car seat use from one year of age and 20 pounds in weight to a minimum of two years of age.
In 2013, 24 percent of parents of one- to four-year-old children made the switch at or before 12 months. Only 23 percent reported waiting until the child was two years old or older, according to the survey.
In 2011, just 16 percent parents reported turning their child's seat at two years or older.
"So we have seen some improvement... however, almost one-quarter of parents are turning (the seats of) their children before their first birthday," said lead author Michelle Macy from the University of Michigan's CS Mott Children's Hospital in the US. "And few parents report waiting until that second birthday to make the turn," Macy added.
The researchers asked parents about when they transitioned their child to a forward-facing seat in two national surveys - one in 2011 and the other in 2013.
The research was conducted as part of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.
"There are lots of reasons why parents are eager to change from the rear-facing to forward-facing seat: the perception their children are too large, the desire to see their children when driving, and a greater ease of removing their children from a forward facing seat," Macy said.
"But delaying the switch can make a big difference. In Sweden, it is culturally accepted that children up to age four are in rear-facing seats and child traffic fatalities are among the lowest in the world," she said.
The study appeared in the journal Academic Pediatrics.