Car seat laws and safety seem to be one of those passionate debates among parents, especially on social media. While some parents leave a child rear-facing in a 5-point harness until they reach the weight and height maximum for the car seat, other parents turn a child forward on his first birthday, almost as a rite of passage, and move into a booster seat at a young age. I remember seeing this video on YouTube when my daughter was about a year old, and it strongly influenced my decision to research the guidelines for car seat safety. Car accidents are the leading cause of death in children over the age of 4. Following safety guidelines can reduce the likelihood of injury and fatality in children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised their car seat recommendations, and these are the guidelines I follow for my children:
- The AAP recommends children remain rear-facing in car seats until at least the age of 2 (or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the car seat).
- After the age of 2, children should still remain in a 5-point harness until they reach the maximum height and weight for forward-facing as indicated by the car seat’s manufacturer.
- Children need to remain in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between the ages of 8 and 12.
- Children should ride in the back seat of vehicles until the age of 13, wearing a lap-and-shoulder vehicle seatbelt at all times.
These guidelines were created for the safety of young children. For longer road trips, I recommend bringing along snacks, toys, books, music, and maybe even electronics (iPods, iPads, other tablets) to keep your children engaged in a variety of activities and reduce behaviors that may be disctracting to the driver. Also, be sure your children have easy access to the objects and activities so the driver is able to focus on the road. Before making any decisions regarding your child’s safety while riding in a vehicle, please read the car seat laws and recommendations carefully and consider what is truly best for your children.