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Rear-facing child seats in cars often feel less convenient to parents. Maybe it’s harder to put the child in. Maybe you wish you could see them in the rear-view mirror. Maybe they have an older brother or sister, and you wish they could both face the same way to talk, play games, watch movies, etc.

Even if they’re inconvenient, though, rear-facing seats are much safer, especially for young children. In a standard front-end crash, the child gets pressed against the padded inside of the seat, not the straps. This can prevent injuries and save lives. How long do you need to leave your child in that seat?

Age, weight and height

There are three main factors to consider: age, weight and height. Your specific child seat will have its own weight limit and height limit. According to experts at the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should follow those instructions and never turn the chair around until your child hits those limits. Children all grow differently, so this could be far later for some children than others.

That’s why age-based rules simply do not work as well. They assume that all children are identical, which is clearly not the case.

However, if you’re looking for an age-based recommendation, note that local laws in Oregon require children to be at least 2 years old before they switch to a front-facing seat. Doing so beforehand is not permitted, even if your child hits the height and weight marks on the seat. After age 2, parents can make the decision on their own. You may want to leave your child in longer or spin the seat around on their second birthday.

Accidents and injuries

Even with proper seating, if you get into a car accident, your child could suffer life-altering injuries. You have to know what legal options you have to seek compensation, which may cover things like medical costs and lost earning potential.