On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a new set of guidelines for vehicle safety which advises parents to continue to put their children into rear-facing car seats until the age of two, explains CNN. Previous recommendations from 2002 put the minimum age for forward-facing car seats at 12 months, the article explains, but doctors are now saying that waiting another year could help prevent serious spinal cord injuries in toddlers.
CNN reports that the new guidelines were published in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics under the lead authorship of Dr. Dennis Durban. He explains the rationale behind the change: “A rear-facing child safety seat does 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.” Willingham also cites a 2007 study claiming that children under the age of two are around 75 percent less likely to suffer severe injuries in a car crash if they are in a car seat that faces the rear.
Durbin is careful to explain that these recommendations are guidelines rather than absolutes, reports CNN. “Smaller children will benefit from remaining rear-facing longer, while other children may reach the maximum height or weight before 2 years of age,” he says.
The Pediatrics article contains guidelines for children over the age of two, as well, says CNN. Since seatbelts are designed to fit adults, children that have outgrown car seats of all kinds but are shorter than 4 feet 9 inches tall should use a belt-positioning booster seat, reports CNN. Durbin explains that “A belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly.” The article explains that children will typically need this booster seat until sometime between the ages of eight and twelve.
Though parents may be eager to help their child transition to the next stage, cautions CNN, it is important that children have fully outgrown the current vehicle safety device before moving on to the next one. According to CNN, “car crashes are still the leading cause of death for children ages 4 and older.” Because of this, the article says, all children under the age of 13 should sit in the rear seats of a car.
Willingham, Val. (March 21, 2011). “Kids should ride in rear-facing car seats longer, pediatricians say.” Retrieved March 23, 2011 from CNN.