There have been times in my life when I have driven somewhere unbuckled. I have risked, for some stupid reason, my own safety and the opportunity to pay a hefty fine for no real reason. I think we have all made dumb choices in regards to our own safety throughout our lives.
However, I have never risked the safety of any of my children for any reason. There is no reason I could ever justify risking their lives. We have 5 children. I also have a step-daughter from my previous marriage. I am the daughter of a retired law enforcement officer and an ICU nurse. I grew up with CHP magazine on our coffee table (a magazine that focuses on vehicle accidents and has very graphic, real life pictures). As a young mother I was reminded (lovingly) how important it was to make sure my children were safe in the car regardless of noise and comfort.
I know how frustrating a crying baby in a car seat can be. I understand all too well what its like to be in the car with a child who wants to be anywhere but in that car. An upset child can not only be painful to your emotional and physical body but also a big distraction to the driver. So I get it. It's tough to be in a car with an upset child of any age.
I recently had a second hand experience about a mother who turned her 11 month old around to the forward facing position. The reason in her words, 'she didn't like being rear facing'. At this time I am not going to go on and on about the legality issue of turning your child around at 11 months. I think we can all see the stupidity and selfishness in this particular situation. So for arguments sake, lets just say her child was 12 months old. The legal time to be allowed to turn your child from rear facing to forward facing.
I am not going to list studies and data to support my opinion. I don't think it's necessary. You don't need to see all that to know in your heart whats right and what's not. The safety of your child(ren) is not a like or dislike situation. My son loves candy and it would make him very happy to eat candy whenever he wanted, but it's not good for him to over indulge in sweets. So he isn't allowed to. My oldest daughter is a type 1 diabetic. She hates poking herself all day long to test her blood sugar and to change her pump inserts when needed. But she still has to do them to keep herself safe (and in this case alive). Each example is simple and extreme at the same time. And so is turning your child around to the forward facing position simply because it may make your car rides less stressful.
My son is very tall for his age. Right now at 37 months old he is 40" tall, he wears a 5T or 4 in boys. He is not a small guy and never has been. He has always had very long legs. He stayed in the rear facing position for 2 years. Why? Well I guess the simplest answer is information I already shared with you, my father is a retired law enforcement officer and my mother is an ICU nurse. I fully understand what could happen, what has happened to other children, and what my child's physical limitations are when it comes to vehicle safety. We have certainly had our moments of chaos in the car and have had to push through them.
Car seat safety isn't the only problem with children in the car. The children who are no longer in seats (and even those in boosters) have a tendency to put the shoulder belt behind there backs because when the belt rubs against their shoulder blade it can be uncomfortable. Please, please don't let them do that. They make little adjusters that attach to the seat belt to help it be positioned in the right and comfortable area.
I am not the one who tells this story anymore when one of our children's friends get in our car and they attempt to put the shoulder belt behind them. My children know the story and tell it well all on their own. It is a simple, straightforward, and very sad story.
We are acquaintances with the family who lived before us in our last house in California. A family of 4: Mom, dad, daughter, and son. One day mom and daughter are out running errands in their large 2006 GMC Denali. They were in a head on collision. The collision was so substantial that mom's left knee was smashed up under the dashboard and shattered. She was lucky. Her daughter, in the back seat, had done what she did every time she rode in the car. She put the shoulder portion of her seat belt behind her. The collision (obviously from moms injuries) was so hard that the impact force focused on her abdomen, her back was broken and her spinal cord severed. She was (is) permanently paralyzed from the waist (seat belt) down.
I don't have any stories of children I know being injured from riding front facing instead of rear facing. For that I am thankful. However, just because I don't know anyone who has had that happen doesn't mean it doesn't. Babies just don't have the muscle strength older children do. Car seats have come a long way and can hold children rear facing safely for a long time. Please, please don't risk your child's safety for perceived comfort and less stress. I guarantee you that the mother of the paralyzed child mentioned above does not have a stress free life and would exchange discomfort and stress for the injury her daughter lives with every day.
Car seats, booster seats, seat belts, and adjusters have come a long way in the last few years. Please don't risk the safety of your children or other people's children for the sake of comfort and silence in the car.
Okay, I will now step down off my soapbox. :-)