Parents who mark their children’s first birthdays by turning their car seats to face forward should think again. New advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests children stay safer longer in rear-facing car seats.
The updated AAP car seat recommendation states that parents should keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2 or until they reach the maximum height or weight for their seat.
“We’ve been promoting the safety benefits of rear-facing car seats for a long time at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health through our Automotive Safety Program,” said Dr. Marilyn Bull, a developmental pediatrician with Riley at IU Health, and a current AAP board member and chair of District V.
Dr. Bull and fellow Riley developmental pediatrician Dr. Joseph O’Neil have studied car seat safety for years. Both were active in the new policy.
“There shouldn’t be a rush to get kids to the adult seat belt because each transition up until that point comes with a reduction in the protection the restraint provides. The goal here should be safety and we know that rear-facing car seats are simply safer and provide better protection,” Dr. O’Neil said.
Data supporting AAP’s updated recommendation come from a recent study. Findings include:
• Infants (0-11 months) are almost two times more likely to be seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash while forward-facing compared to rear-facing.
• Children in the second year of life are five times more likely to be seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash while forward-facing compared to rear-facing.
“Rear-facing car seats support the body over a wide area, distribute crash forces, and as a result, better protect the head, neck and spinal cord,” Dr. O’Neil said.
According to the AAP, children should transition from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing one with a harness, until they reach the maximum height or weight for that seat.
A booster will make sure the vehicle’s lap-and-shoulder belt fit properly.
The shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the chest and shoulder – not near the neck or face.
Most children will need a booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old.
Parents with questions should contact the Riley Hospital for Children Automotive Safety Program at Indiana University Health at (800) KID-N-CAR or visit www.preventinjury.org.