SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — Children should ride in rear-facing car seats longer, until they are 2 years old instead of 1, according to updated advice from a medical group and a federal agency.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued separate but consistent new recommendations Monday.

KCBS’ Janice Wright Reports:

San Francisco pediatrician Lisa Dana is already passing along the new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics and writing about it at Dana is a big supporter who said the recommendations would decrease risk of injury and fatal accidents for children around 75 percent.

Both organizations say older children who’ve outgrown front-facing car seats should ride in booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits them. Booster seats help position adult seat belts properly on children’s smaller frames. Children usually can graduate from a booster seat when their height reaches 4 feet 9 inches.

Children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat, the guidelines from both groups say.

The advice may seem extreme to some parents, who may imagine trouble convincing older elementary school kids—as old as 12 — to use booster seats.

But it’s based on evidence from crashes. For older children, poorly fitting seat belts can cause abdominal and spine injuries in a crash.

“That booster seat gives them that little extra added couple inches that they need to have a safe fit,” Dana said.

One-year-olds are five times less likely to be injured in a crash if they are in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing seat, according to a 2007 analysis of five years of U.S. crash data.

Put another way, an estimated 1,000 children injured in forward-facing seats over 15 years might not have been hurt if they had been in a car seat facing the back, said Dr. Dennis Durbin, lead author of the recommendations and a pediatric emergency physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Toddlers have relatively large heads and small necks. In a front-facing car seat, the force of a crash can jerk the child’s head causing spinal cord injuries.

Car seats have recommended weights printed on them. If a 1-year-old outweighs the recommendation of an infant seat, parents should switch to a different rear-facing car seat that accommodates the heavier weight until they turn 2, the pediatricians group says.

Luckily for parents, most car seat makers have increased the amount of weight the seats can hold. This year, about half of infant rear-facing seats accommodate up to 30 pounds, Durbin said. Ten years ago, rear-facing car seats topped out at children weighing 22 pounds.

“The good news is it’s likely parents currently have a car seat that will accommodate the change,” Durbin said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations appear Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

Comments (5)
  1. Karen Zack says:

    I am shocked to see that you show a picture of a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a vehicle at the top of this article.

  2. KC says:

    My 9 1/2 yr. old uses a booster seat. She can see out the window better and the belt doesn’t cut across the neck –her choice to keep using it. There are things similar to a harness that you feed the seatbelt through that helps pull it off the neck that older kids can wear.
    And Karen, maybe it’s a truck without a back seat? If there aren’t air bags you can put forward facing seats into the front. My dad’s Dakota has a way to turn off the passenger air bag incase you are traveling with a young kid. And trucks with little pull down seats in the back you can’t use car seats on.

  3. Codi says:

    So many issues to address….

    I think having 12 year olds in car seats is going a little extreme. 4 feet 9 inches?? I have a little friend who is 8 years old and he sits in a booster seat, but his parents told me that he is not probably going to use it for much longer. He’s about 4 feet 3 inches or so. As for 4 feet 9 inches, there are lots of people who are beyond age 12 that are that height or below. So some high school
    student or college student that is 4’9″ or 4’8″ be strapped into a car seat?
    How about dwarfs??
    Should proportionate dwarfs be in car seats if they are 3 feet 5 inches tall and weigh 38 lbs??? That would make a lot of dwarfs can drive now actually unable or ineligible to drive. I know people who aren’t even dwarfs and are shorter than 4’9″. I know a 40 year old girl with Down Syndrome who is
    4’6″ and 90 something pounds – – should she be in a car seat? I have heard
    of plenty of Down Syndrome children that are under 4’9″. My grandma was 4’11” and 63 lbs when she passed away in April 2009 at age 88. Her normal weight was 70 lbs. Would you put a 88 year old person who is 4’9″ (my grandma was only 2 inches taller) and 70 lbs. in a car seat?? That sounds

    If you ask me, I think someone is just trying to turn our country into a “nanny state”. What’s the next thing? Are they next going to put adults who are 5 feet 5 inches in 5 point restraint car seats while they drive their car? I have high functioning Autism and I am 5 feet 11 inches tall which is quite tall, but with the way they are going, I wouldn’t be too surprised if I end up in a carseat soon. If so, I’m going to get the best looking most comfortable car seat!!! Probably
    like a Britax or something!!! Someone is going to make a lot of money in the car seat industry in the next few years. Good luck getting a 13 year old or an adult into a car seat!!! Heck, why not make toddler clothes for adults?!!! Wouldn’t be too surprised. I think the government is trying to infantilize us or something. I wonder how many people are going to drive a car, if they keep increasing the height limit for carseats. Probably hardly any. Unless they drive their car
    and sit in a carseat at the same time. And yes, I’ve heard of dwarfs that
    are 3 feet tall that sit in booster seats or even 5 point restraint car seats,
    such as Brooke Greenberg who is 18 years old but looks like a 1 year old
    and is the size of a 1 year old. I can see that. But how many adults are
    there that are 4’9″. I know several adult females over age 18 that are
    4’9″ or so. It’s not as uncommon as one would think. Scary, scary, scary.

    Codi from the SF Bay Area

  4. C. Wesley says:

    C.It isn’t the location of the seat I’m concerned most about, as you can place a rear facing or forward facing seat in the front of a vehicle when necessary as long as the airbags are disabled, but the fact that the chest clip is far too low and the harness straps too loose in that first picture. *sigh* Images like these only perpetuate the overwhelming instances of incorrectly installed and utilized child safety seats.

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