Toddlers Should Ride Rear-Facing to Age 2

The American Academy of Pediatrics released the new, 2011 policy on car seats. The biggest change from the previous policy is that parents are now advised to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. The recommendation is supported by new research showing that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing.

The previous policy, from 2002, cited age 12 months and 20 pounds as a minimum to ride forward-facing. As a result, many parents turned the seat to face the front of the car when their child celebrated his or her first birthday. “Parents often look forward to transitioning from one stage to the next, but these transitions should generally be delayed until they’re necessary, when the child fully outgrows the limits for his or her current stage,” said Dennis Durbin, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement and accompanying technical report.

The new policy recommends that once they reach the maximum height and weight for the rear-facing seat, children should transition to a forward-facing seat with a harness, until they reach the maximum weight or height for that seat.

Then 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. The lap belt should fit low and snug on the hips and upper thighs, not across the belly. Most children will need a booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old.

Children should ride in the rear of a vehicle until they are 13 years old.

A detailed car seat guide for parents is available at www.healthychildren.org/carseatguide.

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