After working as a Renton auto accident attorney for several years I know the damage a serious auto accident can have on a young child. As a parent these stories of young children dying or suffering debilitating injuries has lead me to strictly adhere to all car seat recommendations issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to the newly released car seat recommendations, children should be using rear-facing car seats for longer than previously thought. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics agreed in their recommendations released today that children should be using rear-facing car seats until they are two years old- not the previously recommended 1 year.
A study of auto accident data showed that children in rear-facing car seats were far safer when involved in an auto accident than those in forward-facing seats. In fact, based off of five years of data, children that were in forward-facing car seats were 75% more likely to be injured in an auto accident than those facing the rear of the vehicle.
The added danger occurs because young children have a tendency to have a rather large head sitting on a small neck so when they are a passenger in an auto accident the force will jerk their head forward leading to spinal injuries. These injuries are prevented very easily by having the child remain in a rear-facing car seat where their head is properly supported.
The NHTSA and AAP also suggest that children remain in booster seats until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall and children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat.
Car Seat Recommendations
Rear-Facing Car Seat: A Child should be left in a rear-facing car seat for the first two years. This will help support their neck from spinal injuries, reduce the impact they feel in an auto accident and reduce their chance of injury. Most newer car seats will accommodate up to 30 lbs, if your child outgrows their seat before the age of two make sure to purchase a better fitting seat.
Forward- Facing Car Seat: A child should be in a forward-facing car seat from two years of age until four years- or until they weigh 40 lbs. Car seats are necessary at this point because the child is too small for an adult seat belt and in the event of an accident the seat-belt will do little to protect them.
Booster Seat: From the age of 4 to 12 or until the child reaches 4 feet 9 inches tall they should be in a booster seat while in a vehicle. The booster seat increases child safety as it makes the seat belt fit the child correctly, stabilizing them in the event of an auto accident.
Kids in the Back: Kids should ride in the back seat of the car until they are 13 years old. This will help protect them from the impact of an airbag discharge which can give them serious if not fatal injuries.