The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released new recommendations for child safety seats. In concert with NHTSA guidelines, the Academy sets forth new guidelines based on years of research on the effects car accidents on children.
Among the changes to the guidelines, the predominant adjustment concerns toddlers up to age 2. It is now recommended that they should ride in rear facing car seats for as long as possible, specifically because research indicated that children younger than age two are far less likely to die or suffer severe injuries in a car crash if they are facing the rear of the vehicle.
Essentially, rear-facing seats are much more likely to distribute the force of a crash over the child's entire body instead of centralizing it in the head and neck region. A young child's head is considerably heavier than the rest of the body. As such, the sudden change of direction in an accident is much more likely to violently shake the child's head and neck; thus increasing the likelihood of head, neck or spinal cord injuries.
Options for Parents to Adhere to New Car Seat Rules
There are several types of rear-facing safety seats. Naturally, newborn-only seats should exclusively face the rear. Convertible and 3-in-1 seats have higher height and weight limits, which allow infants and toddlers to stay in safer positions until they are big enough to sit in child booster seats. The NHTSA recommends that small children should stay in rear facing seats until they exceed the limits imposed by the manufacturer.
The National Center for Statistics and Analysis reports that 250,000 children are injured each year in car accidents. While children comprise only a fraction of all fatalities in car crashes (5 percent), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children ages 2-14. However, proper use of a child safety seat reduces the risk of injury by up to 70 percent.
The new recommendations represent a departure from the traditional change in car seat positioning after a child's first birthday. Nevertheless, with crashworthiness and occupant safety being a continual theme for safety, the change should be welcome advice to new parents.