Car Seat Safety: An Update On Age Guidelines, Car-Seat Advice

May 23, 2011

Whether you’re the parents of an infant or toddler or a young child under the age of 12, carrying them safely in your car means you need to know the right kind of child car seat to use – and how to correctly install it. But do you know the latest age guidelines on child car seats?

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently issued new guidelines on child safety seats. According to the new guidelines, children should be kept in rear-facing seats until they are two years old or reach the maximum height and weight for the seat, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

This is a change from the academy’s previous position that a child could be turned around to a forward-facing seat by the age of 12 months and weight of 20 pounds.

Furthermore, the academy says that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between the ages of 8 and 12. Safety experts caution that children should continue to travel in the vehicle’s backseat until they are 13.

What prompted the new guidelines? There’s constant research going on in the field of passenger safety, and these guidelines are based on results of such studies. A 2007 study published in the journal Injury Prevention found that children under the age of two are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured if they ride in a rear-facing seat.

Of course, this isn’t an iron-clad rule – just recommendations based on sound research. You child may outgrow the rear-facing car seat before the age of two, while others may benefit from remaining in the seat while traveling until they are a little older and weigh more.

Two types of child car safety seat systems

There are only two types of child car safety seat systems. The first is LATCH, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. Vehicles with LATCH have anchors located in the backseat.

Car safety seats that come with LATCH have attachments that fasten into these anchors. Nearly all the passenger cars and light-duty vehicles made on or after September 1, 2002 have the LATCH system. It’s important to note, however, that unless your car seat and vehicle have the lower anchor system, you’ll still need to use seat belts to install the car safety seat.

The second child car safety seat system is the car’s seat belt system. Either one of these systems can be used in the United States.

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