Kids’ Car Seat Guidelines Changed – Again

CARLA K. JOHNSON,AP Medical Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — Children should ride in rear-facing car seats longer, until they are 2 years old instead of 1, according to updated advice from a medical group and a federal agency.

WBZ-TV’s Kate Merrill looks at the new car seat guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued separate but consistent new recommendations Monday.

Both organizations say older children who’ve outgrown front-facing car seats should ride in booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits them. Booster seats help position adult seat belts properly on children’s smaller frames. Children usually can graduate from a booster seat when their height reaches 4 feet 9 inches (1.44 meters).

Children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat, the guidelines from both groups say.

WBZ-TV’s David Robichaud Reports

The advice may seem extreme to some parents, who may imagine trouble convincing older elementary school kids — as old as 12 — to use booster seats.

But it’s based on evidence from crashes. For older children, poorly fitting seat belts can cause abdominal and spine injuries in a crash.

Related: Booster Seat Reviews

One-year-olds are five times less likely to be injured in a crash if they are in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing seat, according to a 2007 analysis of five years of U.S. crash data.

Put another way, an estimated 1,000 children injured in forward-facing seats over 15 years might not have been hurt if they had been in a car seat facing the back, said Dr. Dennis Durbin, lead author of the recommendations and a pediatric emergency physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Toddlers have relatively large heads and small necks. In a front-facing car seat, the force of a crash can jerk the child’s head causing spinal cord injuries.

Car seats have recommended weights printed on them. If a 1-year-old outweighs the recommendation of an infant seat, parents should switch to a different rear-facing car seat that accommodates the heavier weight until they turn 2, the pediatricians group says.

Luckily for parents, most car seat makers have increased the amount of weight the seats can hold. This year, about half of infant rear-facing seats accommodate up to 30 pounds, Durbin said. Ten years ago, rear-facing car seats topped out at children weighing 22 pounds.

“The good news is it’s likely parents currently have a car seat that will accommodate the change,” Durbin said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations appear Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

More from David Robichaud
  • Times Have Changed

    Man to think when I was kid, my four brothers and I had no car seats…and we lived…the horror…what a bunch of BS.

  • Doc

    No 12 year old is going to sit in a booster seat.

    • Mo

      Parents need to enforce safety rules. The rules are there to save their lives.

      • royp

        I have a petite 15 year old daughter. She’s going to sit in a booster seat?

      • Open Your Eyes

        Don’t just blindly follow rules…these new rules make no sense. Think for once…don’t just read something and assume some government recommendation is true. This is same government who’s health care bll will banrupt out kids so they can’t afford to drive anyway.

  • mamato3

    My youngest just turned forward facing, he will be three in May. My older 2, 10 and 8, are still in booster seats. As are most of my 8 year old’s friends. Times HAVE changed. People are smarter, risks are better known. Sure, you may have survived, but thousands of other kids didn’t. If i can keep my kids safer, why not. Using a booster seat / extended rear-facing is not a bother to anyone.

    • Kristen

      I agree! I once read that a good carseat is much cheaper than a nice coffin, so spend the money and keep your kids as safe as you can!

      • TruthBeTold

        No offense but I find most women support a nanny state envirionment (my wife would agree with you, not me under the guise of safety. The point is, the government shouldn’t even be making these recommendations (and yes, many of the pedi groups are government funded). If they can tell you how long to use a car set, they can tell you what to eat, what to drive, and when…

    • Emily

      This is ridiculous most children by age 1 are already too long to face the rear as when they were newborns. If they are continued to be put to face the rear this will make them have to fold their legs…after awhile they will suffer in the long run from deformations or abnormalities from having to bend their legs like this. Makes no sense to make this a general rule it should go by height and weight. What if your 2 year old is as tall as a 3 or what if you happen to have a 3 year old that is as short as a 1 1/2 year old, see? Another thing most 12 year old aren’t children sized anymore some are even as tall as an adult and let’s not even get to…what if they are obese like many are. So now what will we get stopped and fined?

  • Katie

    Wow! You sure were lucky! And just think how much safer our children are now WITH carseats. :oP

    • TheCube

      I bet no more than before, but no one would dare publish those findings.

  • Charles M

    Instead of learning how to drive we must learn how to crash. The U.S. is becoming the black hole of intelect.

  • response

    and yet, millions ride on a school bus with nothing.

    • mamato3

      I know. It’s terrible. Some school districts have seatbelts, but certainly not most.

  • mamato3

    And most people don’t realize that carseats expire after about 6 years. The date is printed on the bottom of the carseats. People are mostly uninformed about carseat safety, and assume minimum requirements are okay. I wish pediatricians were more proactive with teaching this. So many lives could be saved.

  • SSullivan

    I am 6′ 6″ and My wife is 5’9″.. Find me a carseat that will have our daughter facing rear without her feet going iover the headrest.

  • emom

    what head rest, if your car or van is older there are no head rests in the back seats, explain how safe that will be if your childs head is OVER the back seat, I mean really, there are booster seats that are just that a seat no back to them , the still sell them and put them in a vehicle with a seat back that has no head rest and you have a major issue, WHIP LASH OR A BROKE NECK. OH and not to mention what if the child is much taller than the reuirements, but there age says they must, that wont work, I had that issue and BYE BYE went the car seat,, AH but seat belt clips worked , and no need for a car seat any more. they work great and I use them since I am short, wait DO I NEED A CAR SEAT OH CRUD.

  • katelyn

    That is ridiculous you will break there little hips if they are,rear facing at 2 and a booster seat till 12 come on now

    • Patti

      That is absolutely false. My tall daughter rear faced until 3. My son is nearly 2 and will continue to rear face as long as he can. You need to visit and get informed.

  • emom

    Oh and lets not forget all those RECALLS on car seats ,, how many are still being used, TELL ME THATS SAFE NOW. , I agree 12 years old is to old for a booster seat.. my kid was out of a booster seat by 7 or 8 , how about booster seats for ADULTS , I mean how many times do we see an adult that can barely see over the steering wheel. PLEASE TELL ME THATS NOT SAFE,,,,, IF YOU HAVE TO LOOK THRU A STEERING WHEEL YOU SHOULDNT BE DRIVING….
    Talk about bulling at school for kids, this will set them all up for major ridicle. how about correcting seat belts in cars to be adjustable for children after a certain ages, add those seat belt clips, so you can further adjust the belts around their necks and shoulderrs, this is what I had done for every passanger, its so comfortable and there is no neck issues. 12 years old in a booster seat yeah I can see that NOT happening

  • natasha

    It makes sense, but my daughter is 13 months and her legs are already cramped because she is rear facing. I don’t think she will fit at 2!

    • Seriously

      Come on Natasha…government knows best. :) Have they ever lied or miscalculated before?

      • emom

        SERIOSLY the government ALWAYS LIES, they wouldn’t know the truth if it BIT them in the rear end.

  • nora

    I was just at Babies r us the other day, and it occured to me that the booster seats all of a sudden were very large. Now I know why….. I cannot fit one of them rear facing in my car. hmmm…. better take out another loan to purchase an escalade.

    • Patti

      Booster seats are not meant to go rear facing. And there are boosters and convertible seats of all sizes for all vehicles and children. Just take the time to become informed.

      • nora

        oh, I am sorry… convertable car seats are getting very large… So sorry I used the term booster. So.. moving the drivers and passenger seats up to accomodate my twins rear facing is safe for the driver. I have to disable the airbags to keep from suffocating in my Sentra.

  • Emily

    This is ridiculous most children by age 1 are already too long to face the rear as when they were newborns. If they are continued to be put to face the rear this will make them have to fold their legs…after awhile they will suffer in the long run from deformations or abnormalities from having to bend their legs like this. Makes no sense to make this a general rule it should go by height and weight. What if your 2 year old is as tall as a 3 or what if you happen to have a 3 year old that is as short as a 1 1/2 year old, see? Another thing most 12 year old aren’t children sized anymore some are even as tall as an adult and let’s not even get to…what if they are obese like many are. So now what will we get stopped and fined?

  • Twocents

    I’m assuming that a child crash test dummy test was conducted. What are the lower extremity injury results of the rear facing 1 1/2 yr. old? Infant car seats have always suggested turning forward facing for children whose legs touched the back seat. Unless the car seat bases are being extended to accommodate the longer legs, the new recommondation is dangerous and will result in more orthopedic injuries. Trust me, these injuries are life changing for the child. I also agree with the others who suggest making the seatbelts more adjustable for older children. Make the cars more safe instead of adding yet another expense for patents who are already cash strapped.

    • Patti

      Crash tests have been done…you can find the videos of them on utube. There are no injuries to the legs of rear facing children. There is a greater chance of forward facing children having leg injuries from their legs flying into the seat or other hard surfaces in front of them. Not to mention the neck and spinal injuries being forward facing. Even if there was a chance of a broken leg/hip rear facing (which there isn’t), it’s much easier to heal a leg fracture than a broken neck. Watch the crash tests. It’s what convinced me to keep my kids rear facing as long as possible.

      • Twocents

        My son was still rear facing after one year, but once his legs were touching the rear seat, I turned him around. The car seat was properly installed at the Police Station. There is a reason that the forward facing car seats are set at an angle, it is to prevent spinal injuries. My son has a permanent injury due to rear facing in another’s car. He was 1 1/2. His leg was jammed into the rear seat during a hit from the side.

    • Twocents

      Sorry, typo. Parents are cash strapped.

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  • Jill

    Why don’t we just start wrapping our kids in bubble wrap everyday? This country is getting so ridiculous. Keeping the kids facing backwards? Really?

  • Patti

    I just saw a live report on WBZ that showed a rear facing car seat…installed wrong!!! Are you kidding me? I didn’t see the beginning of the interview and am not sure who the woman was they were talking to, but I hope it was how NOT to install a RF carseat! The seatbelt was going through the foward facing belt path, not the rear facing. Seriously, make sure you check your facts before you report something WBZ!

  • Just sayin'

    never mind the darned car seats. they should be focusing on the parents driving. I had a minivan with a woman at the wheel and couple kids in the back run a stop sign in front of me. Blantly run it! No not a rolling stop. She is lucky I was paying attention or her kids would have been dead!!! Car seat or not. Let’s retest all drivers!!!!

  • Violet

    Patti- I find you annoying…
    good point Emily…

    • Patti

      That was useful, Violet. Thanks for sharing. At least I have a clue and care about the safety of children. Just trying to help others get the message.

  • royp

    Now all you ladies go to the airport and line up to get groped. The government says it’s for your own good!

  • emom

    Broken legs, hips, knees ankles, even the feet, LIKE THAT IS GOING TO BETTER FOR THE CHILD,, Oh wait what about the parent , what about all the time they would have to transport the child because they wont be able to walk, are you kidding me. I am so glad my child is out of car seats,,,, this study is cr*p, I would so love to see the governement follow their own recommendations and then hear their oppinions I bet they would change their tune real fast.. the governemnet is so out of control, they have a nerve to control what most logical adults do but the dont care they are putting us into debt faster and faster .. such morons…

    • Patti

      First of all, it’s not the government, it’s the American Academy of Pediatrics. A well established group who is simply making a recommnedation for what they think is safest for children. And I’m sure they are following their own advice. And, I would certainly choose to care for my child with a leg injury which will heal with no lasting effects over a SPINAL injury that my leave permanent damage to my child. Carrying them around for a month or two verses long term recovery? I just don’t understand how people think a leg injury is so much worse than a neck injury! Not to mention that if you do some research, you’ll find out that leg injuries are RARE in rear facing children. I’m sure it happens, but I’m sure it’s less of an injury than a forward facing SPINAL injury. How does that not make sense to people???

  • laura

    Keep in mind that these are just recomendations made by two organizations, not governments. Carseat LAWS are state regulated, and not federal, so they are different in each State. If you are concerned about making sure you’re complying to the law in your state you can call your local fire department or sherifs office, they usually have someone on their staff trained in local carseat regulations and can hlep you be sure you are folloing the proper regulations for your childs age and weight. If you are traveling by car to a different state, you can look up the car seat regulations of that state online. The most important thing is to make sure the seat you are using is the right size for your child and that it is buckled into the car properly. Car seats save lives, they really really do

  • emom

    WAIT do you think for even once second the government will not be approached at some time and that they will intervein and make it some regulation… PLEASE they have taken recommendations from other groups for years and used them to interfere some way in our lives. SUre some have been benificial , but again, when is it to much. rear facing for over a year old, their legs will only be over the back of the seats cramped and they will be uncomfortable. Oh I bet you all want to hear your child cry because of the discomfort, they cant stretch their legs out, lets just hope they dont have issues, cause we all know someone will come forward later and say their is some issues with them having their legs in a bad possition. again glad my child is beyond car seats , oh but wait they recomend they stay in the booster seats until they are what 12 or older, yeah let the ridicule begin at school. we all know how that will be. and how about all those vehicles with no head rests in the back seats like vans, you really believe a booster seat is a GOOD IDEA, HELLO WHIP LASH AND BROKEN NECKS THERE…. yeah tell me that will be smart. NOT

  • Hal

    Makes no difference to me who recommends what in regards to car seats. Once the seatbelt can go across my kids properly, that is when they stop using a booster seat, period.

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