New Car Seat Policy Keeps Kids in Booster Seats Much Longer

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, In The News, Health & Safety: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Health & Safety: Big Kids

If you think it's time to graduate your child out of her car or booster seat, you may want to take a look at a new policy released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which significantly modifies the last guidelines, issued in 2002.

These guidelines are markedly different from the previous policy, which had infants and toddlers riding in rear-facing car seats only until the age of 12 months or 20 pounds at minimum. With this in mind, parents often turned the seat to face the front of the car around the child's first birthday.

"Parents often look forward to transitioning from one stage to the next, but these transitions should generally be delayed until they're necessary, when the child fully outgrows the limits for his or her current stage," Dr. Dennis Durbin, author of the policy statement and technical report, says in a news release.

Durbin says a rear-facing child safety seat better supports the neck, head and spine of infants and toddlers in the event of a crash, as it distributes the force of the collision throughout the entire body.

In support of this idea, the release cites a 2007 study from the journal Injury Prevention with found that children younger than 2 years old are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a car crash if they are rear-facing.

"The 'age 2' recommendation is not a deadline, but rather a guideline to help parents decide when to make the transition," Durbin says in the release. "Smaller children will benefit from remaining rear-facing longer, while other children may reach the maximum height or weight before 2 years of age."

For larger children, Durbin says a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, while a belt-positioning booster seat affords greater protection than just a car seat belt alone, until the seat belt properly fits the child.

With regard to fit, the shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the chest, and not near the neck or face. The lap belt should fit low and snug on the hips and upper thighs, not across the belly, according to the guidelines.

The AAP recommendations also note that children should ride in the rear of the vehicle until they are 13 years old.

The AAP's air travel guidelines call for children younger than 2 to ride in an age- and size-appropriate restraint, even though the Federal Aviation Administration allows infants up to 2 to ride in an adult's lap on an airplane.

"Children should ride properly restrained on every trip in every type of transportation, on the road or in the air," Durbin says.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.