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NHTSA Announces New Child Seat Guidelines

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has unveiled new child restraint guidelines that are categorized by age instead of the type of child seat. NHTSA wants children to use the restraint type recommended for each age for as long as possible before moving on to the next recommended child safety seat. Hopefully, these new guidelines will decrease the number of child injuries during car crashes.
NHTSA’s car seat recommendations:
Up to 12 months: A rear-facing car seat.
1 to 3 years: A rear-facing car seat for as long as possible is recommended. NHTSA says to keep the child in this seat until he/she hits the weight or height limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
4 to 7 years: A forward-facing seat with a harness is best until he/she hits the weight or height limit.
8 to 12 years: A booster seat. The child should use a booster seat until he/she is big enough to use just a seat belt. Remember, the seat belt’s lap belt should be able to snuggly go across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and it should also be snug over the chest and shoulder (not the face or neck). Previously, booster seats were recommended until only age 8.
Meantime, the American Academy of Pediatrics, which published a new policy in Pediatrics’ April 2011 issue, advices that toddler should be kept in rear-facing car seats until they either turn 2 or grow bigger than the weight or height limit for the car seat. This is a revision of its previous age 1 recommendation for when to face the child safety seat forward.
According to a 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention, children younger than 2 are 75% less likely to die if they are seated in a rear-facing child safety seat. On CNN.com, pediatric emergency doctor Dennis Durbin is quoted as saying that one reason that rear-facing child safety seats are safer is that they are better at supporting the spine, neck, and head during a car crash.
Our child injury lawyers represent families of kids hurt in car crashes because a child car seat was defective or failed in some way. Manufacturers must make sure that their products not only adhere to standards set by the government but also, they must be safe for use. Otherwise, injury or death can be grounds for a products liability case.
New Age-Focused Guidelines Help Parents Make More Informed Choices, NHTSA, March 21, 2011
AAP: Toddlers in rear-facing seat until 2, CNN, March 21, 2011
Child Safety-Seat Recommendations, Revamped, ABC News, March 21, 2011

Related Web Resources:
Car Seat Recommendations for Children, NHTSA (PDF)
Pediatrics

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