New American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for car seat and booster seat safety

Mar 21, 2011 at 12:30 p.m. ET

The American Academy of Pediatrics has officially issued new guidelines for car seat and booster seat safety. Among the recommendations are to keep children rear-facing in their car seats until they are at least two years old and to keep children in booster seats until they reach 4'9" in height, which typically occurs between the ages of eight and 12.

Rear facing car seat

New safety guidelines for car seats and booster seats

On March 20th, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines for car safety seats. Following is a brief overview.

Car seat safety for infants and toddlers

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children should ride rear-facing in car seats from their first trip home from the hospital until they are at least two years old -- or until they reach the maximum height and weight limits for their car seat. Previously, the AAP suggested children ride rear-facing until they were one year old or 20 pounds, whichever occurred later.

Booster seat safety

Booster seats aren't just for little kids! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be placed in a booster seat once their height or weight exceeds the limit for their forward-facing car seat. Children should remain in a booster seat until "the vehicle seat belt fits properly." According to the AAP, this typically occurs when a child reaches 4'9" in height -- between the ages of eight and 12.

Backseat passengers

All children -- not just those in a car seat or booster seat -- should remain in the backseat until they reach 13 years old. Additionally, children should use both the lap and shoulder belt.

>>See the Consumer Reports car seat guide

Are the new recommendations feasible?

The guidelines have many parents questioning how realistic they are, while others insist that safety always comes first. As for keeping children in rear-facing car seats until they turn two years old, many parents have already been doing that well ahead of the AAP's new guidelines. Sarah, Massachusetts mom of one, says that her son remained rear-facing until he was 2.5 years old.

Others say that they'll continue to keep their children rear-facing for as long as it's realistic. Morgan from California and a mom to two small children, says, "I'll keep my 13-month-old rear-facing as long as she'll tolerate it."

Some parents closely follow car seat recommendations. "I'm a strict car seat rule follower!" says Katie, a mom to three from Washington. "I kept them in five-point harnesses as long as possible -- [my daughter] didn't move to a booster until she was six and I still would have her one if she would fit!"

As for the booster seat recommendation, many parents find that a little more difficult. Oregon mom of one Julie notes, "I can't imagine the arguments that would ensue trying to keep a tween in a booster seat! I understand the safety concerns, but it's just not practical."

Should car manufacturers address safety?

Many parents think that the car manufacturers should consider a solution to the booster seat issue. Naomi, a mom of two from Texas, quips, "Some grownups practically need booster seats according to these guidelines!" Morgan agrees: "My mom technically needs one! She isn't even really supposed to ride with a passenger airbag."

Beth, a mom of two from California, asks, "Quite honestly, if cars are this unsafe for children why aren't the cars being made differently?" Julie had the same question. Some are hopeful that car manufacturers will solve the booster seat dilemma before their young children are older. Morgan thinks that there will be a better solution by the time her three-year-old hits the tween years.

What about those whose tweens aren't currently in a booster, but should be according to the AAP's new suggestions? "We only stopped the boosters when [my sons] were eight and 80 pounds," says California mom to four Julie. "They won't be happy about the new recommendation, but when your dad is a paramedic, and your mom borders on what you saidparanoid with safety issues... such is life!"

>>Will you (or did you) keep your child rear-facing until the age of two? How about your tween? Will your child remain in a booster until she reaches the recommended height? What about your child that isn't currently in a booster, but is now within booster guidelines? Will you require her to use a booster seat now?

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