New Car Seat Recommendations

I’ve been telling my patients this for a while now, but now it’s official. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration have recommended that too be safest, children should be rear facing in their car seats until age two and ideally, they should be in a booster seat until they are 4 ft. 9 in. tall and 13 years old (source).

This may seem a bit extreme, but realize was 10.2 million traffic accidents in 2008 with 39,000 deaths that year, and the number per year has been steadily climbing. Seat belts are rated to something like 3,000 pounds per square inch, to give you some idea of how powerful the forces can be in a collision.

The statistics are impressive. One years olds are five times as likely to be injured in a crash if they are forward facing compared to rearward. Think about it. The collisions with the most force tend to be front end ones. If the child is facing rearward, the entire car seat and child move together. If the child is facing forward, the head, neck and upper trunk fly forward or he may slide into the pelvic strap. Either one may cause severe injury.

The statistics from all the collision tests that are run, show that children need to be 4 ft. 9 inches and 83 pounds before the seat belt fits correctly. Any smaller than that and the child risks neck, shoulder or abdominal injuries directly related to the seatbelt during a crash.

I’m sure many of you are asking, how on earth are we going to do this. Well, for the younger children there is good news. Many car seats now will hold rearward facing children up to 30 pounds. Do make sure your car seat is rated for your child’s weight.

The big thing I hear from parents is that there older children don’t want to be in a booster. With 4 foot 9 inches as a goal, some children may be in boosters until 10 - 12 years of age. The trick is, to make your child expect it from an early age, just like anything else. When older, they can move into a simple booster - a seat with no back where the adult seatbelt is used normally.The extra hight keeps the seatbelt on the lap and over the shoulder so it doesn’t wind up over the abdomen or neck. The children don’t mind. They can see out of the windows easier and they may have less car sickness in the mountains because they can see the road in front. My son was in one until he was tall enough at age 10 ½ and it wasn’t a big deal, I assure you.

So, I know these recommendations are not the law in California yet, but I think assuring the safely of your child is more important than just doing the minimum required by law. Please take these recommendations into account, you my just save your child’s life.
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