You may have heard the news that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised its 2011 guidelines about keeping children rear-facing in car seats until the age of 2 years and 30 pounds. Actually, the former recommendation continued with: “or until they exceed the height or weight limit for the car seat.” The new revision doesn’t change much except for removing the 2 years and 30 pounds criteria.
The new AAP Guidance for Families:
- Children should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, up to the limits of their car safety seat. This will include virtually all children under 2 years of age and most children up to age 4.
- Once they have been turned around, children should remain in a forward-facing car safety seat up to that seat's weight and length limits. Most seats can accommodate children up to 60 pounds or more.
- When they exceed these limits, child passengers should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they can use a seat belt that fits correctly.
- Once they exceed the booster limits and are large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use a lap and shoulder belt.
- All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.
Why the change?
The 2011 guidelines were based on a study done in 2007 and according to Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention Executive Committee, "We just don't have a large enough set of data to determine with certainty at what age it is safest to turn children to be forward-facing." Therefore, the specific age and weight criteria have been removed.
Why is rear-facing better?
- "Rear-facing is still the safest way for children to ride," says Dr. Hoffman.
- Every transition actually reduces the amount of protection a child has in the event of a crash. According to Dr. Hoffman and his colleagues at the AAP, parents really shouldn't rush transitioning kids out of rear-facing seats - and later, into boosters.
- A rear-facing car seat will absorb most of the crash forces and support the head, neck and spine. When children ride forward-facing, their heads - which for toddlers are disproportionately large and heavy - are thrown forward, possibly resulting in spine and head injuries.
- Many car seats manufacturers have created seats that allow children to remain rear-facing until they weigh 40 to 50 pounds. Even many infant-only seats have a higher weight limit to 35 or 40 pounds.
- Evidence does not support that children will suffer leg and foot injuries if their feet touch the seat. There are no known harmful effects of riding read-facing longer, while the benefits of doing so have been observed for years. Children have many ways of making themselves comfortable when facing the rear and can ride safely that way, as long as they have not reached the weight or height limit for rear-facing in their seat. For many kids, this could be well past two years. In Sweden, children routinely ride rear-facing until the age of four.
Safely transporting children has come a long way from the days when would put a baby front-facing at age 1 and 20 pounds. Keep your child rear-facing for as long as their seat allows and check the label on your car seat to make sure your child fits the weight and height guidelines and that you are using the seat correctly.
Primary Children's Hospital offers free car seat checks by our trained and certified car seat technicians to make sure your child is riding as safely as possible. If you'd like to make an appointment for a car seat check, or if you have questions or concerns about car seats, simply call us at 801-662-6583 .