As you check off your list of things to pack for road trips this summer, make sure the right size car seat is one of them. Car crashes are the number one killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States, so making sure your child is in a safe seat is more important than ever.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a new policy statement on child passenger safety, which was published in the April 2011 issue of its journal, Pediatrics. Their four recommendations are based on data in the United States, as well as extensive experience in Sweden, and still holds true today. First, it is recommended that all infants and toddler should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until they’re 2 years old, or have reached the maximum height and weight allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Children who are older than 2 years old should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible.
So what happens when your toddler outgrows a forward-facing seat? Keep them safe by using a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached a height of four feet, nine inches—usually when they are between 8 and 12 years of age. Once your child outgrows a booster seat, they can graduate to a seat belt, given that it fits them correctly.
Finally, the AAP recommends that any passengers under the age of 13 should be riding in the backseat. Keep them safe by keeping them out of the passenger seat until they turn 13.
Want a second opinion to make your child is strapped in safely? Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website to find a car seat inspection station near you.
Rosemary D. Casey, MD is a Main Line HealthCare pediatrician at Lankenau Medical Center.