The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced new guidelines for children’s car seats. The new guidelines lengthen the use of rear-facing car safety seats and change the guidelines for the use of booster seats.
Here are the specifics as adapted from www.healthychildren.org
|Age Group||Type of Seat||General Guidelines|
|Infants and toddlers||Infant seats and rear-facing convertible seats||Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height recommended by the manufacturer of the seat.|
|Toddlers and preschoolers||Convertible seats and forward-facing seats with harnesses||Children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear-facing car safety seat, should ride in a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness until they reach the highest weight or height recommended by the manufacturer of the seat.|
|School-aged children||Booster seats||Children who have outgrown the forward-facing car safety seat should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly without the booster – usually when the child reaches a height of 4 feet 9 inches and is between 8 and 12 years of age.|
|Older children||Vehicle seat belts||Children younger than 13 years should always ride in the rear seat of a vehicle and should always use a lap and shoulder seat belt.|
Why are rear-facing seats safer?
The previous AAP policy, issued in 2002, advised that infants and toddlers remain in rear-facing safety seats until they reached the limits of the car seat, but cited 12 months and 20 pounds as a minimum. As a result, many parents turned the car seat around on the child’s first birthday.
But new research has shown that children under age 2 are safer in rear-facing car seats. A 2007 study showed children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are in a rear-facing car seat.
Research suggests that rear-facing child car seats do a better job of supporting the head, neck, and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body. The age 2 recommendation is a guideline to help parents decide when to make the transition.
Proper seat belt “fit” in a booster seat
Automobile seat belts are designed to fit an average adult. It is best not to let a child sit without a booster seat until he or she weighs 80 -100 pounds. Researchers say a booster seat should make the vehicle’s lap-and-shoulder belts fit properly. The shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not near the face or neck. The lap belt should fit low and snug on the hips and upper thighs, not across the belly.
Safety seats in the air
Although the Federal Aviation Administration permits children under age 2 to ride on an adult’s lap on an airplane, children are best protected by riding in an age- and size-appropriate restraint.