When should children graduate car seats?

For parents, safety is a number one concern — especially while driving. If you’ve got a little one nearing the age of two, you may be wondering whether it’s time to flip your car seat forward and see that smiling face in your rear view mirror.

However, new child passenger safety guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) may advise you hold off.

Wait as long as possible

In the past, AAP guidelines have advised new parents to switch children who reach the age of two years old to face forward in car seats. However, recent research has indicated that a rear-facing car seat is much safer to use as long as the child fits the seat. For most children, this age may extend all the way up to four years old, depending on how quickly the child outgrows the height or weight restrictions of the seat.

The same goes for switch your child from a forward-facing car seat to a booster seat and from a booster seat to only using a regular seatbelt.

Why wait?

Physics can help explain why the rear-facing design is more protective in a car crash. Because most impacts in a car accident come from the front or side, a rear-facing child is more likely to all backward. This means the car seat will absorb much of the shock and keep the neck and spine from snapping outward.

While a child within the height and weight restriction for any type of safety seat (be it a car seat or booster seat) this will continue to be the safest option for the child. If a child is graduated to the next seat before fully growing into it, the new arrangement may cause injury to the child instead of keeping him or her safe.

Ensure your seat is safe

However, there are some key elements you’ll need to check off your list to ensure your seat will be effective. Most importantly, pay close attention to the manufacturing guidelines of the car seat or booster seat you are using. Make sure to:

  • Correctly install the seat—this will decrease the risk of death in an accident by 71%
  • Fasten safety straps according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • Ensure your child is within the weight restriction
  • Ensure your child is within the height limitation

If you are involved in a car accident, be sure to seek medical attention for you and your child immediately. Even if you both seem to have been relatively protected by these safety precautions, it’s always best to get an “okay” from a medical professional. If you have suffered injuries or your personal property has been damaged, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your options.

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