Big changes happened in the quest to keep kids safe last week as the American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidelines for children’s car seats.
The revised report states that children should ride rear-facing in their car seats for “as long as possible,” or until they reach the height or weight limit of the seat (generally 40 pounds).
Previous guidance from the Academy encouraged parents to keep their child rear-facing until at least the age of 2. But decades of research and new developments in child safety laws have led the Academy to completely drop the age of a child as a factor in safety altogether.
This small, but significant change means that most children will remain rear-facing in the car far beyond their second birthdays, as evidence continues to show that rear-facing is the absolute safest way for children to ride.
“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.”
- Children should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible—until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the seat manufacturer. You can find this information in the seat instruction manual.
- Once children reach the height and weight limit of the rear-facing seat, they can shift to a forward-facing seat. Experts recommend that children should still use safety seats with a five-point harness for as long as possible—typically up to 60 pounds.
- Only after children exceed the height or weight limit for those forward-facing seats, should they transition to a belt-positioning booster seat until they are big enough to use a shoulder and lap belt properly. (This is typically when a child reaches about 4 feet, 9 inches in height).
Hoffman says he understands that most parents and children are eager to reach milestones—even something as simple as upgrading car seats. But delaying this transition could actually save your child’s life.
Research shows that using the correct car safety seat for your child’s weight or height, lowers the risk of death or serious injury by more than 70 percent.
“Car crashes remain a leading cause of death for children,” he said. “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.”