New car seat recommendations for kids

September 28, 2018 Elizabeth Meade, MD

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released new information and recommendations on car seats for young children. In an updated policy statement, entitled “Child Passenger Safety,” the AAP recommends children remain rear-facing as long as possible – until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their specific seat.

How is this different? 

Previously the AAP recommended that children should remain rear-facing at least until age 2. This new statement removes a specific age milestone and instead focuses on weight and height, and allowing the child to remain rear-facing as long as possible.

Why is rear-facing safer?

In this position, the head, neck, and spine are all supported by the car seat which allows the seat to absorb more crash forces and protects the child better. In young children and toddlers, their heads are larger and heavier in proportion to their bodies, so in the front-facing position when restrained by harness straps, they can be thrown forward causing spine and head injuries.

How do I know when to transition? 

Most convertible car seats have height and weight limits that allow children to be rear-facing for at least two years or more. Parents and caregivers should check the instruction manual and labels on the seat itself to find manufacturer’s height and weight limits.

What should kids transition to? 

Once facing forward, children should be in forward-facing car seats with harness straps for as long as possible. Many of these seats can accommodate kids up to 65 pounds or more. Once a child becomes too big for their forward-facing harness seat, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits correctly – this is often when kids are at least 4’9’ and 8-12 years old, but that may vary.

When can my kids move to the front seat? 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children are restrained in the rear seats of vehicles until age 13.

Using the right car seat or booster seat lowers the risk of death or serious injury in a car crash by more than 70%. All older kids and adults, even when out of safety seats, should always wear shoulder and lap belts to help protect them in a crash – even if you’re just going around the block.

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