Your Health

Keep Kids In Rear-Facing Car Seats Until They Turn 2

A booster seat sits atop a chair in the Texas House of Representatives back in 2009, when a bill was passed requiring their use for kids under 8 years old. i

A booster seat sits atop a chair in the Texas House of Representatives back in 2009, when a bill was passed requiring their use for kids under 8 years old. Harry Cabluck/AP hide caption

toggle caption Harry Cabluck/AP
A booster seat sits atop a chair in the Texas House of Representatives back in 2009, when a bill was passed requiring their use for kids under 8 years old.

A booster seat sits atop a chair in the Texas House of Representatives back in 2009, when a bill was passed requiring their use for kids under 8 years old.

Harry Cabluck/AP

Don't rush to turn your toddler around in her car seat.

A leading group of pediatricians is advising parents to stick with rear-facing car seats until their children turn 2, or the kids exceed the limits for weight and height in the seats.

Older kids should stay in booster seats until they are between 8 and 12 years old. The key is for kids to be at least 4 feet 9 inches tall, so seat belts are in the proper position to protect them in case of an accident..

An older recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics from 2002 had been less emphatic, saying kids should ride facing backward until they turned 1 or hit 20 pounds. So many parents, eager to get on with easier-to-use seats, are quick to get their kids looking out the front windshield as soon as possible. And the kids I know seem happier not staring at upholstery, for that matter.

That's not the best bet for safety.

The pediatricians note that auto accidents are the leading cause of death for kids older than 4, causing more than 5,000 deaths in children and young people under the age of 21 each year.

Proper use of child seats can help a lot. The pediatricians cite research that suggest safety seats can reduce the risk of injury 71 percent to 82 percent. The seats can reduce the risk of death by 28 percent compared with kids wearing seat belts alone.

The recommendations, as written for doctors and policymakers, appear in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics. Parents can find more practical advice on car seats and the new recommendations on the HealthChildren.org website here.

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