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Joel's Journey: Why Rear-Facing Car Seats Are Safer

If the new AAP guidelines about keeping children in rear-facing car seats until age 2 still have you skeptical - Will my child be comfortable? What do I do if I've already faced them forward? - the story of a little boy named Joel will change your mind. Spoiler alert: it has a happy ending, but a gruesome beginning.

Plus: Read the New AAP Rear-Facing Car Seat Guidelines

Joel's story, as told by his grandfather, started when Joel and his mother were in a car accident. Joel, then 18 months, was a "beefy" boy, and his mother was told by his pediatrician that it was okay to turn him forward-facing. The car hit a tree at about 35 mph, and Joel's head was flung forward with such force that his spine detached from his skull, resulting in internal decapitation.

Plus: Car Seat Mistakes You May Be Making

Luckily, an ambulance happened to drive by the scene so help was administered quickly. Joel underwent numerous surgeries and intense physical therapy (he wore a "halo" to heal his injury), but now, at 4 years old, he's pretty much a normal kid -- you can see a video of Joel in June 2010 splashing in his backyard pool. Joel’s family also received special permission from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to import a car seat from Sweden, the Britax Multi Tech, that allowed him to remain rear-facing throughout his recovery, thanks to its rear-facing limit of 55 pounds (the highest rear-facing limit currently approved in the U.S. Is 45 pounds).

Plus: Your Rear-Facing Car Seat FAQs Answered

If this doesn't prove the case for keeping children in rear-facing seats, we're not sure what else will, but here are some numbers to support extended rear-facing: A study published in Injury Prevention found children under age two were 75% less likely to die or be injured in a car crash if they're rear-facing, and another found kids in rear-facing seats are five times safer than ones in forward-facing ones.

Plus: 17 Convertible Car Seats With Extended Rear-Facing