A recent announcement from the American Academy of Pediatrics merits the attention of every parent here in the Pacific Northwest. As reported in the magazine Contemporary Pediatrics the AAP “has changed the age recommendations regarding rear-facing car seats, advising that children remain rear-facing for as long as possible.”
As the article notes, the long-standing guidance for new parents has been to place babies in rear-facing car seats until the age of two. New research, however, showed that “at all agers examined, rear-facing car seat use was associated with a decreased risk for injury; the number overall were insufficient to confidently recommend a specific age to transition. Consequently, the policy, specifically recommending age 2 years, needed to be changed.”
The article quotes an Oregon scientist – Benjamin Hoffman, a senior professor and administrator at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland – saying: “We knew that if our policy said rear-facing until age 2 and we could not back up specifically… we needed to change our guidance to reflect the best available evidence.”
The new guidance from the AAP focuses on a child’s size rather than his or her age. It now states that kids should remain in rear-facing seats for as long as possible. That time frame will vary slightly depending on the specifications for each particular car seat, but, the article notes, “virtually every convertible car seat can accommodate children rear-facing either direction up to 40 pounds, and that means that virtually every child can stay rear-facing in virtually every seat until at least their second birthday.” Of course, every parent should carefully check the exact specifications for whatever car seat they are currently using or plan to buy.
The article goes on to quote Hoffman noting that “car crashes kill more kids than any other cause. The longer parents and caregivers can delay transitions, the fewer children will be injured and killed.”
I am a Portland lawyer who has long specialized in helping families of injured children obtain the justice they deserve. This often involves cases focusing on reckless or negligent drivers and on manufacturers who do not pay enough attention to safety concerns in the production and marketing of their products. The new AAP guidelines outlined in the article (see link below) are something we should all welcome. They are based on cutting-edge science, and demonstrate the ability of researchers to rethink their findings as technology – in this case the design of both child seats and of carts themselves – changes over time. I hope the article will be widely read, and will prompt the legislatures of Oregon, Washington and other states to rethink, and ultimately tighten, their laws on child seats.
Contemporary Pediatrics: How AAP car seat guidelines have been updated