Kayla Simard, CPNP, CLC
Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the US. Luckily, many of these deaths can be prevented with the proper use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their recommendations regarding car seat safety. Below is a summary of their new recommendations.
It is now recommended that children remain in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, regardless of age. Once they reach the highest height or weight limit allowed by their specific seat, they then should be moved to forward-facing. Previous to this it was recommended that children remain rear-facing until two years of age. Again, now there is no specific age limit to remain rear-facing (and most children will stay rear-facing past their second birthday). The reason that this recommendation has changed is due to that fact that when children are rear-facing their head, neck and spine are supported by the car seat. This is particularly important for infants and toddlers due to the fact that their heads are disproportionately large when in comparison to their bodies. When they are moved to forward-facing the head, neck, and spine are no longer well supported and tend to thrust forward, often leading to head and neck injuries.
The following are the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations regarding car seat safety that have not changed. Once a child has exceeded the rear-facing limits, they are then moved to forward-facing. It is recommended that children should use a forward-facing car seat with harness as long as possible, again until they reach the height and weight limit for their specific seat. When children exceed these limits, a booster seat should be used until the lap and shoulder seat belts fit properly (this is typically not until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and eight to twelve years old). Once a child is old and large enough to not require a booster, they should continue to always use the lap and shoulder seat belts. Lastly, for best protection all children younger than thirteen years old should be seated and restrained in the rear seats of vehicles.
In summary, the proper use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can help to reduce the occurrence and severity of injuries and deaths from motor vehicle accidents. We encourage you to familiarize not only yourself with the updated car seat recommendations, but also any caregivers for your child. The following website is a great resource for families and caregivers of infants, toddlers and children: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx. If you have further questions do not hesitate to contact our office.
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