Keep Kids in Car Seats/Boosters Longer

New advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may change the way (and for how long) you buckle up your kids.

If you were planning to turn your toddler’s car seat forward on his first birthday, you need to think again. 

In a new policy published in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics, the AAP advises parents to:

• Keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat (which may be older than 2).

• Keep children in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

“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,” says Dr. Dennis Durbin, lead author of the AAP policy. “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.”

While the rate of kids killed in motor vehicle crashes has dropped in recent years, it is still the leading cause of death for children ages 3 to 14, the traffic safety administration reports. More than 5,000 children and teens up to age 21 die in crashes nationally each year. 

A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention showed that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if their car seats face backward.

The AAP policy also says that children in rear-facing seats should never ride in front of an active passenger air bag and that all kids under 13 should ride in the back seat. Toddlers who have outgrown the rear-facing size limit for their safety seat should use a forward-facing seat with a harness until they reach the maximum size set by the manufacturer.

– Angela Geiser 

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