Experts support AAP guidelines on carseats

September 24, 2018

Almost a year after Connecticut strengthened its laws about children’s carseats, advocates are throwing support behind new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which are even stricter than the state law.

In the November issue of the journal “Pediatrics” — published online in August — the AAP recommended children remain in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Previously, the academy recommended children should remain rear-facing at least to age 2. The new recommendation removes the specific age milestone.

“We see the AAP’s newest recommendation as a way to reinforce Connecticut’s own law and as one that has a very minimal effect on a parent’s practical use of car seats,” says Fran Mayko, AAA Northeast spokesman and a certified Child Passenger Safety technician in a news release.

Oct. 1 marks the one-year anniversary of Connecticut’s updated law on carseats, which requires children to ride rear-facing in vehicles until they’re at least 2.

“The new policy also gives parents more leeway with seat use because car seats on the market allow children to remain rear-facing until they’re 40 pounds or more, long after their second birthday,” said Mayko in the release.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. The CDC reported that, in 2016, the most recent year for which numbers were available, 723 children ages 12 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes more than 128,000 were injured.

Using the proper safety or booster seat lowers a child’s risk of death or serious injury by more than 70 percent, said Mayko in the release.

Rear-facing car seats support the most vulnerable parts of an infant’s or young toddler’s body — the head, neck, and spine. If children ride forward facing at too young an age, experts said, their bodies may be restrained by a car seat’s harness straps, but their heads, which are disproportionately large and heavy, can be thrown forward, resulting in severe spine and potentially fatal brain injuries.

AAA Northeast recommends parents read the instruction manual or car seat labels to determine the manufacturer’s weight and height limitations of their car seat. When a child approaches one of these limits, parents can change the seat to a forward-facing position, said Mayko. Once forward facing, children should remain in a 5-point harness seat until they reach the height and weight limitations. Most forward-facing seats accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.

Once the child outgrows a forward-facing, harness seat, they transition to a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicles lap and shoulder belt fits properly. Usually when the child reaches 4 feet, 9 inches in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age, they’ll be safe in the vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt system.

The AAP doesn’t recommend children sit in the front seat of the car until they are at least 13 years old.

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