The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend rear-facing seats for children until at least age 2. Now, the organization is updating its guidelines and wants parents to keep their children in rear-facing seats until they reach the seat's maximum height and weight limit — even if they're older than 2. Under the new guidelines, most kids would keep using rear-facing seats until they're about 4 years old.
"It's really important to keep them rear-facing as long as possible," said Natasha Young, who is mother to 5-month-old Soleil and a certified technician for the non-profit organization Safe Kids Worldwide.
"Even if their children's legs are longer than the car seat, they can easily fold their legs up into the car seat and it's actually much safer for their legs," she said.
Young, who teaches other parents how to properly install a car seat, said it's vital to keep young children in a rear-facing seat "because it helps to protect them in the incident of a crash."
"It keeps their head and their neck safe," she said.
Young said that when it comes to rear-facing seats, parents often make the mistake of turning their kids around too soon.
"A lot of times they like to see their child, entertain their child, especially if their child might be a little more fussy," she said.
She said a little fussiness is better than putting a child at risk of being injured in a crash.
The new policy also recommends that older kids stay in forward-facing safety seats and booster seats until they reach the maximum height and weight recommended by the manufacturer.
"The most dangerous thing that U.S. children do as part of daily life is ride in a car," writes Benjamin Hoffman, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention Executive Committee. "Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for children 4 years and older."
The organization says using the correct car safety seat or booster seat can help decrease a child's risk of death or serious injury by over 70%.