Of all the safety precautions parents have to keep up with, car seat safety may be one of the most important. But the changing regulations and recommendations can be difficult to remember. How long should kids remain in a rear-facing seat? What is the height and weight requirement for a booster seat? When can they sit in the front seat?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 5,000 children and teens up to age 21 die each year. The number of deaths in motor vehicle crashes in children under age 16 has decreased 45% between 1997 and 2009, but crashes are still the leading cause of death for children age 4 and older.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a new set of car seat recommendations in the April issue of Pediatrics.
- Infants and toddlers should remain in rear-facing car seats until age 2 or until they reach the maximum manufacturers height and weight requirement.
- Children should ride in the backseat in a high-backed, belt-positioning booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall or between age 8 and 12.
- Children should not sit in the front seat until they are at least 13 years old.
“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,” Dennis Durbin, a pediatric emergency physician and co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a statement. “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.”
At this point, the recommendations are guidelines, and not yet enacted into law.
-Follow Elise Rambaud Marrion, @emarrion_cmn.