The new guidelines advise parents to…
- Keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until they reach two years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer.
- Most children will need to remain in a booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old. The booster seat’s shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not near the neck or face. The lap belt should fit low and snug on the hips and upper thighs, not across the belly.
- Children should ride in the rear of a vehicle until they reach 13 years old
According to Dennis Durbin, MD, FAAP, lead author of the AAP policy statement, the new guidelines are based on the latest scientific and medical research which indicate that: “A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body…For larger children, a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, and a belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly.”
Why change now?
According to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, “while all car seats sold in the U.S. must meet federal child restraint safety standards, selecting the right seat was a challenge for many parents”. The “room for interpretation” in the 2002 guidelines plus the huge variety of car safety seats on the market often left parents with more questions than answers. The result: children were transitioning from one stage of car safety seat to the next, far too early to be truly considered “safe”.
New research findings, however are clear. Children under age 2 are safer in rear-facing car seats. Children under age 2 are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. The hope of both NHTSA and the AAP is that issuing these new requirements will simplify the selection process and make it easier for parents to choose the “best” car seat for their child.
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