Children should be kept in rear-facing car seats until at least age 2, according to a revised policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics issued Monday. Previous guidelines (from 2002) recommended toddlers remain facing backwards until age 1.
The new recommendation from the AAP is largely based on a 2007 University of Virginia study that found that children under 2 are 75 percent less likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries in an accident if they are facing the rear of the car.
“Our recommendations are meant to help parents move away from gospel-held notions that are based on a child’s age,” the statement’s lead author, Dr. Dennis R. Durbin, scientific co-director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia told The New York Times. “We want them to recognize that with each transition they make, from rear-facing to forward-facing, to booster seats, there is a decline in the safety of their child. That’s why we are urging parents to delay these transitions for as long as possible.”
A rear-facing seat better protects the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash.
Sweden, where children are kept in rear-facing seats until the age of 4, has the lowest highway death rate for children under 6.
The updated policy statement also advises that older children ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall, and 8 to 12 years old.