New research has led to a big change in child car seat guidelines that the American Academy of Pediatrics believes will save lives.
The updated guidelines say that children should ride in rear-facing car seats until they reach the height or weight limit for the seat. Previous guidance said that children should ride in rear-facing seats until at least age 2.
The change means that most children will remain in rear-facing seats well after their second birthdays.
"Fortunately, car seat manufacturers have created seats that allow children to remain rear-facing until they weigh 40 pounds or more, which means most children can remain rear-facing past their second birthday," said Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, lead author of the policy statement and chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. "It's best to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. This is still the safest way for children to ride."
What parents need to know
Hoffman told NBC News that in the last year there has been "significant change in what we know about the relative protection of car seats." He cited a 2016 Texas legal case in which a car seat manufacturer was found responsible for life-changing injuries of a 20-month-old who was in a front-facing car seat when it did not warn customers of the risks of switching from rear- to front-facing seats.
Ultimately, Hoffman said, the AAP best practice is that parents should delay transitioning children from rear-facing car seats because rear-facing is safer.
The new guidelines say:
- Children should remain in rear-facing seats until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the seat manufacturer. Find the seat limits in the instruction manual.
- Once children reach the height or weight limit and shift to a forward-facing seat, they should use safety seats with harnesses for as long as possible, often up to 65 pounds.
- When children exceed height or weight limits for those seats, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the lap and shoulder belts fit properly, often when the child has reached 4 feet 9 inches in height.
The new guidelines save lives
Hoffman said parents are eager for their children to reach milestones but that delaying this one is life-saving.
Using the correct car safety seat or booster seat lowers the risk of death or serious injury by more than 70 percent.
“Car crashes remain a leading cause of death for children. Over the last 10 years, four children under 14 died each day. We hope that by helping parents and caregivers use the right car safety seat for each and every ride that we can better protect kids and prevent tragedies,” he said.
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