New car seat guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children remain rear-facing until at least the age of 2, maybe longer. Find out how to make car safety a priority, especially if your child is young enough to be in a car seat.
Baby on Board
The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using a rear-facing, infant-only car seat until the age of 2, or until your child reaches the maximum height and weight for the seat as noted in the manual.
You can also purchase convertible car seats, which can be switched to face forward and adapted to a growing child's size.
Transitioning from Forward-Facing to Booster Seats
Older children who've outgrown front-facing car seats should ride in a booster seat with a high back until they are at least 4 foot, 9 inches, and 8-12 years old. The shoulder lap belt should fit before they make the transition out.
All kids should ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
Buckle Up for Safety
Since the federal government's seat belt awareness campaign began in 1985, seat belt usage has increased from 14% to 75%, saving an estimated 85,000 lives. One of the best ways you can make sure your children develop a lifelong habit of buckling up is to set a good example and always wear your safety belt. Unfortunately, standard safety belts aren't designed for small children, which means that to achieve the same safety benefits for your kids, you need to install car or booster seats.
Who Should Ride in a Booster Seat?
The statistics are alarming: In 2006, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta said that only one in five kids who should be in booster seats is actually in one when riding in the car. All kids should ride in a child safety seat until they are ready to use a car's regular safety belts. There simply is no better way to protect your child in the event of a car crash than to securely fasten him in a car seat or booster seat.
How Old Is Too Old?
In matters of car seat safety, what matters is not your child's age, but her size. The federal government recommends that anybody under 4'9" ride in a booster seat. There's also a handy calculator at http://icsw.nhtsa.gov/childps/seatcalculator.html, which will help you determine what type of car seat is best suited to your child's age and size.
Ask for Help
If you're unsure whether you've installed your child's car seat correctly, you have a couple of options. Most local police and fire stations are certified to inspect the seat for you, free of charge, as are some businesses. For a list of inspection stations near you, visit the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's website.
The Importance of Rear-Facing Car Seats
Although many car seats can be installed facing forward, it's actually safer to face your car seat backwards until your child is at least two years old. This video explains why.
For more on child safety in the car, visit these sites: