AAP Updates Recommendations on Car Seat
Posted on: 04/18/2011
Children should ride rear-facing to age 2 years; use a booster until at least 8 years of age.
In a new policy published in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online March 21), the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until 2 years of age, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. It also advises that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached a height of 4 feet 9 inches, and are between 8 and 12 years of age.
The previous policy, from 2002, advised that it was safest for infants and toddlers to ride rear-facing up to the limits of the car seat, but it also cited age 12 months and 20 pounds as a minimum. As a result, many parents turned the seat to face the front of the car when their child celebrated his or her first birthday.
“A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body. For larger children, a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, and a belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly.” 
Children should transition from a rear-facing seat to a forward facing seat with a harness, until they reach the maximum weight or height for that seat. Then a booster seat will make sure the vehicle’s lap-and-shoulder belt fit properly. The shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not near the face or neck. The lap belt should fit low and sung on the hips and upper thighs, not across the belly. Most children need a booster seat until they have reached a height of 4 feet 9 inches tall, are between 8 and 12 years old. Children should ride in the rear of a vehicle until they are 13 years old.
A car safety seat” Ease of Use Ratings “is available to educate parents and caregivers about car safety seat features and to assist them in finding the appropriate seat for their needs. You can view this list at www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/Ease-of-Use.
 Source Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families 2011 (Copyright ©2011 American Academy of Pediatrics)