I’m not sure why this hasn’t happened sooner, especially since it’s been the ongoing recommendation of many car seat manufacturers. But today the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration changed its guidelines for car seat restraints for children. In the new guidelines, NHTSA is advising parents and caregivers to keep children in their appropriate seat restraint for as long as possible before moving up to the next style seat. This includes rear-facing, forward-facing and booster seats.
In “keeping pace” with the latest scientific and medical research, NHTSA is following the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends parents keep children in “rear-facing restraints until two years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer.” The AAP indicates that there should be no rush to move kids up to the next level of seat restraint if not absolutely possible.
NHTSA’s new recommendations aim to help parents in chosing the right seat for their child by selecting seats based on the childs height, weight AND age:
Birth to 1: Children under the age of 1 should always ride on a REAR-FACING car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in 1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
Age 1 – 3: Keep your 1 to 3 year old children in a REAR-FACING car seat for as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep them safe. They should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once outgrown the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a FORWARD-FACING car seat with a harness.
Age 4 – 7: Keep your 4 to 7 year old children in their FORWARD-FACING car seat with a harness until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once they outgrow their forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel on a BOOSTER SEAT … but still in the rear seat.
Age 8 – 12: Keep your 8 to 12 year old children on their BOOSTER SEAT until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. Seat Belts – For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.
Please visit the NHTSA website for more information about the new recommendations and to find a Certified Car Seat Inspection location near you.