new car seat recommendations
Say what? Yes, you heard me right. Just when you thought you had the car seat thing figured out new changes are coming. I feel you, as a mother of a 3 year old and almost (gulp) 8 year old, I was looking forward to “simplifying” the car seat routine. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a new policy statement regarding car seats which signals a new way to think about the best way to protect your child.
Ultimately, the new recommendations say that parents should use each type of car seat or booster seat to the highest weight and height limits allowed by the manufacturer. Up until this point the recommendations were based on age as well – but recognizing that children grow at different rates using a child’s size instead of age offers better protection.
So what ARE the recomendations?
1) Use a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible.
2) Use forward-facing car safety seats from the time they outgrow rear-facing seats. For most children this is through at least 4 years of age
3) Use belt-positioning booster seats from the time they outgrow forward-facing seats. For most children this is through at least 8 years of age.
4) Use lap and shoulder seat belts for all who have outgrown booster seats.
In addition, the recommendation is for all children younger than 13 years to ride in the rear seats of vehicles.
When talking with parents about child passenger safety, I’ve often said wait to let your kids graduate to the next step because every step is actually a step down in protection. Another way to think about it is to not focus on age but rather if your child has outgrown their car seat or booster seat before they move into the next step.
Why the reason for the changes?
There is a growing body of evidence around the effectiveness of car seats. According to the AAP, current estimates indicate that child safety seats reduce the risk of injury by 71 percent to 82 percent and reduce the risk of death by 28 percent when compared with children of similar ages in seat belts. Booster seats reduce the risk of nonfatal injury among 4- to 8-year-olds by 45 percent compared with seat belts. Unfortunately, while there has been significant progress, nearly 1000 children younger than 16 years die in motor vehicle crashes in the United States each year.
In addition, manufacturers have been making car seats with higher height and weight limits for several years which contributes to the ability for the effectiveness of these car seats to be studied.
Really? Rear-facing up to 40 pounds?
Yes, if your car seat allows your child to be rear-facing up to 40 pounds, consider it. Rear-facing car seats provide extra head, neck and back protection for your child. My 3 year old is forward-facing but isn’t quite 40 pounds and I recognize turning her rear-facing after she has been forward- facing for about a year (remember old recommendations were until 2) might be a challenge. The good news is that the research is out there that the battle might just be worth it!