UPDATED 03/21/11 10:54 a.m.
DES PLAINES, Ill. (CBS) – Some new guidelines have been released for children’s car seats, and those guidelines are different from what parents have been advised in recent years.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the new guidelines are based on crash test results, and are designed to improve car safety for passengers.
The changes made by the American Academy of Pediatrics are two-fold. They advise parents to keep their children in rear-facing car seats until the age of 2, and recommends children to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat, in some cases, until the age of 12.
The guideline, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, conflicts with advice given by the academy in 2002. At that time the academy recommended rear-facing car seats for infants only until they were at least 1 year old and they had reached 20 pounds.
On Monday morning, Nancy Calara showed CBS 2 the booster seat and car seat that her two children use when they’re in her sport-utility vehicle with her.
Like many parents, she moved her son’s car seat to face forward when he turned 1 year old, and can’t believe the guidelines have now changed.
“I probably will do some research online, and see when this law changed and everything,” she said. “I don’t know how it would be, like, if they’d start kicking, or are they really going to fit – is there a special car seat for that?”
New research by the journal Injury Prevention found that children under the age of 2 were 75 percent less likely to die or suffer serious injuries in a crash, if they rode in a rear-facing seat.
“It’s confusing, because you want to do the best for kids. Everyday it’s like they change; everything changes, so you just can do with the information you’re given, I guess,” said another parent, Heather Roth.
Roth’s son is 2 1/2 years old, and she said she is surprised by the new recommendation.
“Our son, the size of him, he would have a hard time fitting backwards,” Roth said. “At the age of 1, he was already starting with his back legs being too long, so it would be interesting what’d have to do. I don’t think a lot of kids would fit.”
Lisa Jones, whose daughter is 7 and now uses a booster seat, agrees.
“I am surprised because by the time they’re 2, they’re walking, talking, so obviously the research is what has spurred this on, and they, again, know better than any of us,” Jones said.
Doctors say children may reach the maximum height or weight for backward-facing seats before the age of 2, and that is OK. There is flexibility on when to make the change from backward to forward.
But at the same time, it’s safer for smaller children – even at the age of 2 – to wait.
“So kids could be safe, of course. It’s reassuring that they measure to see if child’s too big or too small, so it’s good,” said another mother, Fabiola Nascimento.
Essentially, doctors say a rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants in a crash.
For beyond the age of 2, the forward-facing safety seat is to be used until the child outgrows it, usually by the age of 4. At that point, experts advise a booster seat so the belt fits properly.
The booster seat should be used until the child is at least 4 feet 9 inches tall, and between the ages of 8 and 12.
Furthermore, experts say, all children should ride in the back seat until the age of 13 – only three years before they might be in the driver’s seat.