We live in San Antonio and it is pretty much the norm to turn your baby around and face them forward in their car seats once they hit one year.
In fact I don't think I have seen any other children extended rear facing as we do.
I'm pretty sure this is because most people just don't know about the benefits of keeping their kids rear facing.
Here are some facts, taken from car-safety.org:
- Rear-facing is safest for both adults and children, but especially for babies, who would face a greater risk of spinal cord injury in a front-facing carseat during a frontal crash.
You are far more likely to get into a frontal or side crash than one from behind, especially ones at high speeds.
- Rear-facing car seats spread frontal crash forces over the whole area of a child's back, head and neck; they also prevent the head from snapping relative to the body in a frontal crash.
- Rear-facing carseats are NOT a safety risk just because a child's legs are bent at the knees or because they can touch/kick the vehicle seat.
I don't know how many times I have heard that excuse for turning their children around: "Their legs will break if we get into an accident!" Besides, wouldn't you rather their legs break than their neck?
- Rear-facing as long as possible is the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatricians, and can reduce injuries and deaths. Motor Vehicle Crashes are the #1 overall cause of death for children 14 and under.
I can't begin to explain how passionate I am about this. It is so much safer to keep kids rear facing as long as possible, and I can't believe that hardly anyone extended rear faces.
Another important thing I want to note is the proper way to restrain your child in their car seat.
If they are in a 5-point harness, which is recommended for all children in car seats of any kind, make sure the"clip"part that goes up by their chest is level with their armpits. After you fasten them in make sure you pull the belt tight until there is no slack.
I honestly did not know the clip part was supposed to be up so high and I assume a lot of others don't know this either.
Something else very important is DO NOT USE AFTERMARKET PRODUCTS!
This includes little seat belt pads (which we used on Ethan's infant seat for many months until I learned better) and little car seat bells and whistles, like the toys that attach to the bar.
The rule is, if the product is not made by the same manufacturer as your seat and is not endorsed by them, then do NOT use it. Car seats are made to be "fireproof" and these aftermarket products are NOT! This includes seat covers and car seat "protectors" (that go under car seats). Aftermarket products are not tested for safety either, even if they have claimed to be.
(note: I do not know why everything is bolding now, it won't come undone.)
As for now we are extended rear facing Ethan in his Britax Marathon, which will allow him to rear face until 35 lbs, but we are going to start saving up to buy the Radian XTSL which rear faces until 45 lbs!
Addendum (8.19.2011): He is still rearfacing at 3 y/o and 35 lbs but we went with a Complete Air car seat which will rearface until he is 40 lbs. It has a pretty tall shell too.