Experts change policy for keeping children in rear-facing car seats

The American Academy of Pediatrics has changed its recommendations on how long children should remain in a rear-facing car seat.

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In a new policy statement "Child Passenger Safety," and a technical report that will be published in the November issue of Pediatrics, the AAP recommended that children remain in a rear-facing car seat "as long as possible," until they reach the highest weight and height allowed by the seat.

“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 Benjamin Hoffman, co-author of the policy statement and chairman 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.”

That is a departure from previous policy, when the AAP recommended that children remain in the rear-facing seat at least until age 2.

Other recommendations:

  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.
  • When children exceed these limits, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly. The AAP said this is common for children between 8 and 12 years old who are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall.
  • When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.
  • All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles.

“Car crashes remain a leading cause of death for children. Over the last 10 years, 4 children under 14 and younger died each day,” Hoffman wrote. “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.”

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