The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has revised its child restraint guidelines to be categorized by age rather than by type of child seat in order to keep pace with the latest scientific and medical research and the development of new child restraint technologies.
Under the new guidelines, issued today, NHTSA is advising parents and caregivers to keep children in each restraint type, including rear-facing, forward-facing and booster seats, for as long as possible before moving them up to the next type of seat.
For instance, the safety agency recommends using the restraints in the rear-facing position as long as children fit within the height and weight limits of the car seat as established by the manufacturer. The rear-facing position reduces stresses to the neck and spinal cord and is particularly important for growing babies.
NHTSA said that its new guidelines are consistent with the latest advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advises parents to keep kids in rear-facing restraints until two years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer. There is no need to hurry to transition a child to the next restraint type.
“Safety is our highest priority,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The ‘best’ car seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and one you will use every time your child is in the car.”
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland pointed out that while all car seats sold in the U.S. must meet federal child restraint safety standards, he said, “Selecting the right seat for your child can be a challenge for many parents. NHTSA’s new revised guidelines will help consumers pick the appropriate seat for their child.”
Administrator Strickland said that parents should also consider other factors when selecting a car seat, including their child’s weight, height, physical development and behavioral needs, as well the family’s economics and type of vehicle.
Additional recommendations for child seat use from NHTSA include the following:
- Always read child seat manufacturers’ instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual for important information on height and weight limits and how to install the car seat using the seat belt or the LATCH system.
- All children under 13 should ride in the back seat.
- Children in rear-facing car seats should never ride in front of an active passenger air bag.