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Drew: New safety recommendation for children in car seats

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Samuetta Hill Drew

Child passenger safety continues to be a focus of research for pediatricians around the world. Based upon recent studies conducted both in Sweden and the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has amended its prior recommendation which now totally eliminates age as the primary reason to stop children from riding in rear-facing car seats and modified it to extend the practice for “as long as possible”.

The reason these studies and recommendations are so important is that “motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for children 4 years and older,” states Dr. Hoffman, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. He further states, “Over the last 10 years, four children (14 years and younger) died each day” due to car crashes. Dr. Hoffman says “Using the right car seat or booster seat every time the child rides in a vehicle reduces the risk of death and major injury by more than 70 percent.”

In recent years, the car seat industry has dramatically improved the safety and quality of car restraint seats. The old AAP recommendation was based upon age. It recommended children over 2 did not have to ride in rear-facing car seats, but looking at Europe’s safety statistics where children rode in rear-facing car restraints much longer along with the manufacturing of newer safer car seats which can accommodate a child weighing 40 pounds or more and U.S scientific research, the AAP has now changed their recommendation which will be outlined below.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published and recommends the following:

– Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that allow children to ride rear-facing for two years or more.

– Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, until they reach the height and weight limits for their seats. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.

– When children exceed these limits, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly.  This is often when they have reached at least 4 feet 9 inches and are 8 to 12 years old.

– When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.

– All children younger than 13 years should be in the rear seat of vehicles for optimal protection.

The most recent estimates of child restraint effectiveness indicate that child safety seats reduce the risk of injury by 71 percent to 82 percent and they reduce the risk of death by 28 percent when you compare the statistics of children similar in age wearing just seat belts.

During the Month of September, all the Keeping an Eye on Safety articles will focus on safety tips for children of all ages because as the song lyric says, “The children are our future.”