It was a brilliant fall day in 1980. I was 7 years old, and chatting with my parents who were sitting in the front seat of our big, ugly Buick. I don’t remember what I was saying, but I do remember it was riveting. I also remember that I was seated in the back and wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and was leaning between the two front seats as I blabbered on, looking to my dad and then my mom for parental approval of my engaging tale. With hand gestures and inflections abounding, I continued with my story, right until I felt the slam of another car against ours and our car spun out of control into a road sign across the intersection.
That shut me up.
The thing is, I remember the feeling of being suddenly propelled into the well of a car seat–whether it was the front seat or the back seat, I’m not sure. But I was totally fine, and lived to tell that tale, as well as many, many, many others.
Now I occasionally get paid to tell tales, but the other critical difference is that I always wear my seatbelt. It’s reflexive at this point–not wearing it would seem just as weird as driving with the door wide open–but I also always think that I need to be around as long as possible for my kids, who now have to tell stories from their little booster-seat prisons in the second row. Too bad, kids. Project.
New recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, publicized yesterdayday, say that kids riding in cars should be in rear-facing car seats till they’re 2–not 1, as was previously recommended–because research that shows children under 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are in a rear-facing child restraint.
On the one hand, as a soon-to-be-new (again) parent, I’ll obviously do whatever it takes to make sure my kid is safe. On the other, at what point do we say it’s too much, or overprotective?
I don’t object to the new regulations, except for the fact that it might be hard to abide by them. After all, most rear-facing car seats only accommodate kids up to 20 lbs. So since my firstborn was 20 lbs by the time he was 6 months old, I had to go on the Internet and find a rear-facing car seat from Canada that didn’t comply with US regulations. Hopefully car seat makers will be better about creating products for big kids.
Maybe I need to order from Sweden, since kids over there are supposed to be in rear-facing car seats until the age of 4. Maybe Volvo makes a station wagon with DVD screens in the seats of the second row as opposed to the back of front row seats? Something else to look into. But it’s not really about age for the Swedes, it’s about height, which they have in spades.
Interestingly enough, though, those tall Swedes are allowed to sit in the front seat, provided that airbags, if they’re there, are shut off–something totally anathema to Americans, who are supposed to keep the kids relegated to the second row till they’re 13 years old.
Personally, I recommend bubble wrap for all ages. Fun to pop, too.