Goodness knows we all want to keep our kids safe, especially in the car. New guidelines for car-seat use published today by the American Academy of Pediatrics should make that easier – but, from a kid’s perspective, much more onerous.
The detailed document says, in short, that all children should sit in the back seat until they’re 13 years old.
Babies and toddlers should remain in rear-facing car seats until they’re two years old (or until they’ve outgrown the height and weight specified by the manufacturer of their particular rear-facing seat).
After that, a child can graduate to a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness “for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer.”
And from there, he or she can move to a booster seat, which is meant to help seat belts (which are designed for adults) fit their bodies correctly.
So far, so good. But the AAP further calls for keeping a kid in that booster seat until he’s 8 to 12 years old, or until… he mutinies and refuses to sit in the darned thing any more!
No, the actual guideline calls for kids’ using the booster seat until they’re 4 feet, 9 inches -- tall enough for seat belts to fit them properly.
The document containing these guidelines is full of interesting information; all parents should take a minute to read it. I’m sure following the new rules will save young lives; I really hope they do. The AAP reports that while car-crash fatalities among kids have decreased dramatically in recent years, motor-vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death among kids age 4 and up. Some 5,000 kids and teens die in car accidents each year. That’s far too many.
But having dealt with two kids whom I insisted on keeping in booster seats far longer than they were happy staying in them, I’m skeptical that the new rules will meet with across-the-board compliance. My son’s 14; I simply cannot imagine his staying in a booster seat until just two years ago. Of course, he’s a big galumphy boy; he probably could have been out by eight. Even so, keeping him there that long would have posed a daily challenge.
The thing with guidelines such as these, though, is that parents really do need to hang tough and insist that their kids follow the rules. Not only is it the right thing to do, but imagine how horrible it would be if you didn’t, and something bad happened to your kid.
Correction: An earlier version of this headline incorrectedly cited the study as saying that kids should sit in car-seats until they are 13 years old. In fact, the study says they should sit in the back seat until age 13. The headline has been corrected.