Rear Facing Carseats: Necessary?

Reader question:

I’m a new parent and we have a rear facing car seat in the back seat of our car, but having my infant where I can’t see him makes me really nervous. What happens if he starts choking on something? I don’t like not being able to see what’s going on with him and attend to him. Is there a reason why babies need to be in the backseat?


It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

I have a baby myself, and I’m constantly looking over my shoulder to the back seat and peaking through the fabric of my kid’s car seat to see how he’s doing. It’s really frustrating, too, when the baby starts crying and there’s really nothing you can do besides maybe pull over. No reaching your hand to pat and comfort him, unless you’re a contortionist. It seems, just from appearances alone, that he might be a lot safer and happier sitting up in the front seat with the big people. However, that is not the case, and putting the kids in the back seat is just something you have to get used to.

Sometimes it seems like an arbitrary rule, considering that a lot of us grew up without that kind of restriction around. When I was a kid, the car seat went in the front seat, and all the older kids who wanted to ride shotgun had to suck it up. It seems like that was fine because, hey, we’re all still alive so far, but that’s not the case.

First you should know what the basic rule is, after all. It’s recommended that all children under the age of twelve, not just the babies, sit in the back seats. If a baby weighs less than twenty pounds, their car seat should face towards the rear, and if they weigh more, they can sit in a car seat that faces towards the front. In Texas, a child must be in a car seat until they are four years old. The requirement varies state to state.

So who makes the decision, and why? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets these guidelines, and car crash tests include dummies of infants and young children to show what the effect a collision can have on a child that is not in the proper place. Infants need to face back because their neck isn’t strong enough to handle a crash, according to pediatricians. You know how you Have to support a baby’s head until he is twenty pounds and able to support it alone? It’s the same basic principle.

As for the back seat rule, it has a lot to do with airbags, but that isn’t the only thing. Air bags can explode out and kill a small child, which is why they shouldn’t be sitting up front where they are facing an air bag. There is also the threat of flying out of their seat and through the windshield, and there are fewer barriers to prevent that up front.


Fashun Guadarrama.

About the Author:

Austin Davis, consumer car repair advocate. "Hi there! I love to help people solve their car repair problems and I hope my site was helpful to you today. Thank you for stopping by."