In mid-March, 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced new recommendations that change many of the rules parents went by just last week. For many years now, babies have faced backward in their infant seats for the first year of their lives. In fact, it’s often a big deal to turn the car seat forward on the child’s first birthday--a kind of milestone. New recommendations advise that children should remain facing backward for the first two years of their lives – doubling the time we’ve become accustomed to.
Some parents aren’t happy with the news. Not only do older babies and toddlers eat small snacks or play with toys (potential choking hazards for all young children) in their car seats where parents will now not be able to see them, but many young toddlers don’t like traveling backward and have a tendency to make long journeys a nightmare because they are isolated from everyone else in the car. However, it’s safer for them to travel facing backward so the longer the better for babies. Additionally, mirrors can be strategically placed so that parents and babies can see each other while in the car. Many infant seats now allow for babies and toddlers who weigh up to 30 lbs. Getting these seats from the start can save money.
Onto older toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners: the rules are still similar. They should be in five point harnesses until old enough and tall enough to need a booster-only seat. Those ages and weights differ from state to state. Each state’s highway patrol has this information.
Grade school and middle school children are also seeing their recommendations change: booster seats need to remain in effect until the child is at least four feet, nine inches tall. Depending on the child – they may need a booster until their tween or even teen years; something both parents and older children balk at.
However, these new suggestions are being introduced due to new crash data that suggests children under two are five times less likely to be injured in a crash if facing backward.