Kids Should Stay In Car Seats Longer, Doctors Say

By Stephanie Lucero, CBS 11 News

CHICAGO (CBS 11 NEWS) – New guidelines released today urge parents to keep their children in rear-facing seats until at least the age of 2.

That’s the advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The doctors group and the federal agency issued separate but consistent new recommendations Monday.

Some parents don’t agree with the new recommendations.

Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, one of the authors of the new policy, says many parents focus on progress and milestones.  Turning children around to sit forward-facing at 1 is the minimum recommended age.  But Hoffman says some children can stay rear facing until they are “3 or 4” depending on the weight and height limitations of the seat.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” says Sabrina Nyagami, whose 14-month-old son Jasean weighs 24 pounds.  “He’s too big to be facing backward,” she says.

Melissa Morton, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and a Certified Car Safety Technician, says she has been teaching the new guidelines to parents for more than a year.  “The longer you can keep a child rear-facing, the better they’re protected as far as their head, their neck and their spinal cord,” says Morton.  She urges parents to read the warning labels on car seats, which provide information about maximum weight and height requirements.

“Once you turn a child forward-facing, they have such a big head that weighs a lot more and can have very bad whiplash effects to their neck,” Morton said. The whiplash “can actually break their neck very easily.”

“The biggest complaint that people have is their legs are very scrunched,” she adds.  “But it’s so much easier to fix a broken leg if you were in a crash than to try to fix someone who had a broken neck.”

Advocates for child safety seats say many children will try to persuade their parents to allow them not to use booster seats, but the A.A.P. says most children will need a booster seat until they have reached four feet nine inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old.

Morton points out that virtually all cars are designed for adult men’s bodies.

Hoffman says many parents have misinterpreted the guidelines and move their children to booster seats too early.  He says the five-point harnesses in a car safety seat provide better protection upon impact.  “It minimizes the risk of injury,” says Hoffman.


(Copyright 2011 by CBS Local Media.  All Rights Reserved.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


One Comment

  1. Where is the law already says:

    Guidelines? When did the US start using guidelines? I thought this country liked to just tell everyone what to do so the human thought process becomes a thing of the past. Why not just have people stay in car seats until they are 16?

    Make it a law already, with a penalty of $100 million for anyone who dares second guess this outfit making these rules.

    1. Eric Snodgrass says:

      Why aren’t school bus seats backward/? Why aren’t school buses equiped with seat belts? Why can’t the government stay out of our lives until they get something right first?

      1. Kevin says:

        You can’t have school bus seats facing backwards because you don’t know, before the first weeks of school when the bus rosters are being finalized, how many kids are under or over any certain weight limits. You also have some situations where some kids ride the bus to school but get picked up by parents in the afternoon or vice versa. Are you going to have bus seats that have to be moved in the morning and during the day by the driver? Your question makes no sense.

  2. Kathy says:

    I agree. The longer we can keep our children safer, the better. Some people don’t realize that some baby stores carry rear facing car seats that go up to at least 40 pounds. I found a graco one that does that and also goes forward facing up to a 100 pounds. So there are options out there if parents look.

  3. billy says:

    I say…..turn your head and look the other way…while some drunk mexican hits you head on in your driveway while you are trying to figure out what the new law for child safety seats are for that given day…..Let’s see…Monday..child in car seat….Tuesday..child in back seat….Wednesday…SO goes the story of Solomon Grundy!!!!

  4. texas heartland says:

    They want people to leave children facing backward, with their long legs all scrunched up and uncomfortable. Sounds just like what I would want to do, on say a five hour trip to see grandma. Forget that the kid would end up bow legged or knock kneed, at least JUST IN CASE we are in an accident, you will be minimally safer. Whatever. I would like big brother to stop telling me what and how to raise my child. Shut up already!

  5. Car Seat Advocate says:

    My children have both stayed rear-facing until the age of 2 and never once complained about their legs and are not bow legged. The thought of their legs being scrunched only bothers the parent, not the child. Motor vehicle crashes are the LEADING cause of death for children age 3-14.The use of child safety seats correctly reduced fatal injury to infants by 71% and 54% for toddlers. In 2008 1,347 children under the age of 14 DIED in traffic fatalities and many more suffered injury. From 1998-2008 this number has decreased by over 50% due to laws and recommendations for vehicle safety and car seat safety & proper use.

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