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Kids' Health Kids' Health

AAP's new car seat guidelines change rear facing & booster rules

Posted by on Apr. 23, 2012 at 1:00 PM
  • 14 Replies

Everything you thought you knew about car seats is wrong. Okay, not everything, but things have changed and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced new guidelines today. And it's big news! The recommendation is that children rear face longer and they also changed the details for kids in boosters.

It was believed that 1 year and 20 pounds was the benchmark for forward facing babies in car seats, despite evidence elsewhere that that was still dangerously early. Now, hopefully, with new guidelines, parents and doctors can get on board and spread the word about the safest practices for children. Here are the details.

New Rear-facing Recommendation: Parents are to keep children rear-facing until 2 years old, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat as noted in the manual.

Safe Kids agrees. Two years is a goal easily met, considering even some of the lowest cost seats now rear-face until 40 pounds. When your baby outgrows their infant carrier, that is when you buy a convertible seat that rear-faces longer, not a forward-facing seat, which you can put upright up to 30 degrees when kids are bigger with better head control, often making them take up less space than infant seats.

New Boostering Recommendation: Children should ride in a belt-positioning booster (that means a high-back!) until they are at least 4 foot, 9 inches, AND 8-12 years old.

Jennifer Hoekstra, the Safe Kids Program Coordinator at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, shared:

In working with parents, we educate them beyond the law and share with them the best practice for keeping their child safe. We strongly agree with the new AAP policy and support the extended rear-facing limits as well as the new booster seat advice.

It's best to keep children in their harnessed seat until they outgrow it, which is into elementary years with the height and weight of most convertible seats and even harness-to-booster seats these days. But they will outgrow it and go into a booster, and eventually they need to meet all points in a 5-point test before they're ready to sit in a car's seat without a booster of any kind. Remember that these belts are designed to fit an average adult. Best practice is also waiting until children are 80-100 pounds as well.

Beyond that, all kids need to stay out of the front until they're at least 13 years old.

While 2 years or 8 years may now be the minimums, we don't parent by minimums, do we? Buying a high quality (not necessarily high cost!) seat to start, after you do all your research to choose the best seat for your child, can easily help you meet these recommendations.

Make sure you're using the car seats correctly, too. There's a lot of intricacies for both harnessed seats and boosters. When in doubt, find a Safe Kids inspection station or event and get checked out by a tech. And hopefully more and more pediatricians, with these new recommendations, will be on board as well, and we can maybe put an end to vehicle related-injuries being the number one cause of death in kids ages 2-14.

Are you glad the recommendations are finally being updated across the board?


by on Apr. 23, 2012 at 1:00 PM
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Replies (1-10):
TonyaLea
by on Apr. 23, 2012 at 1:49 PM

Just because the AAP makes a new reccomendation, doesn't mean parents are going to follow it because many states have very lax child restraint laws.  It is not changing the "rules,"  because they have no governing authority.

That said, my state's laws are actually one of the more strict states.  We only have rearfacing till 1 and 20lbs, but 1-4 and under 40 lbs must be in a forward facing carseat (not a booster).  Then, boosters have to be used till 8 years OR 4'9" (though it can be a backless booster), and children under 13 must ride in the backseat.

My daughter will be 4 in July, but she is only 33lbs, so she will be in her FF carseat for quite a while longer.

TerriC
by on Apr. 23, 2012 at 2:42 PM

I think I am just frustrated they change the "rules" so often.  It gets hard to keep up with.  My girls are 7 and 8.  They are both still in boosters (backless).  My 8 year old is almost as tall as me and she is very uncomfortable in her booster.

Xandriasmommy
by on Apr. 23, 2012 at 6:35 PM
If I remember right, there is a state trying to change their laws to rear face till 2.

That being said rear facing is safer. My dd rear faced till about 3 years 6 months
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PrincessZ20
by on Apr. 23, 2012 at 8:55 PM

I think those are pretty standard!  At least I thought they were....maybe it's just wishful thinking, lol.

Quoting TonyaLea:

That said, my state's laws are actually one of the more strict states.  We only have rearfacing till 1 and 20lbs, but 1-4 and under 40 lbs must be in a forward facing carseat (not a booster).  Then, boosters have to be used till 8 years OR 4'9" (though it can be a backless booster), and children under 13 must ride in the backseat.



Vertical15
by on Apr. 24, 2012 at 10:27 AM

It would be nice if everyone would agree on the proper ages/weights ratios for proper car seats and positions.  At least this shows that its safer and maybe more parents will follow the guidelines.

TigerofMu
by Sonja on Apr. 24, 2012 at 11:10 AM

My 9 year old has been begging to move to a regular booster instead of a high back for 2 years.  I finally decided to let her have one and pass the high back on to my SIL, and now this comes out ;) Ah, she's pretty darn close to 4'9".

Our state law says booster till 9.

Star2be01
by on May. 2, 2012 at 7:52 AM

Why can you purchase a regular booster seat (no back) for a child that is between 30-100lbs if it isn't reccommended? My son is 50lbs and 5years old, he's in a regular booster seat with no back...is he not safe? When I purchased the booster seat at the store I looked at all of the guidelines necessary to be able to sit in a booster seat, he meets all of them! Advice?

Star2be01
by on May. 2, 2012 at 7:52 AM

BUMP!

PrincessZ20
by on May. 2, 2012 at 10:24 AM


Quoting Star2be01:

Why can you purchase a regular booster seat (no back) for a child that is between 30-100lbs if it isn't reccommended? My son is 50lbs and 5years old, he's in a regular booster seat with no back...is he not safe? When I purchased the booster seat at the store I looked at all of the guidelines necessary to be able to sit in a booster seat, he meets all of them! Advice?

It's a recommendation, not a requirement.  For example, in most states, a child must be 1 year old and 20 lbs to be forward facing, but the current recommendation is to keep them rear facing until 2 years old, so you can buy seats that forward face as small as 20 lbs. 

Once it comes to booster seats, I think the best determination is the child's size.  My understanding is that the main purpose of the high backed booster is to help position the seat belt so it fits properly.  Depending on how the back is, it may also have "wings" to help protect the head.  However, if your son is tall enough that it fits him appropriately without it, then I'm sure he's fine!  The shoulder belt should come across his shoulder and not fall off his arm or cross his neck.  If it does, then the high back will help the seat belt fit him appropriately - a seat belt that doesn't fit right may not be as effective in the event of an accident.


rebeccasmly
by on May. 2, 2012 at 10:30 AM

The last I knew, our state laws were 1 and 20 lbs to front face, and they can be out of any carseat/ booster at 5 and 40 lbs. That was with my older children. With my baby, we never went to see what if any changes they have made because at the rate he is growing, he will never be out of a car seat/ booster, lol. He is 6 years old and 35 lbs. He will remain in a car seat/ booster until I feel he is safe enough to ride without it AND he meets the guidelines.

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