Flickr | Ernesto Huang

Experts Say Kids Should Sit In Rear-Facing Car Seats For ‘As Long As Possible’

When it comes to our children, we would do anything and everything in our power to keep them safe from harm. But sometimes, this can be somewhat out of our control, like when we're traveling in a car. We can do our best to keep our own car and its occupants safe, but we can't do anything to control the other drivers on the road.

The best we can do is make sure we've taken every precaution necessary to keep our kids as safe as possible while riding in the car.

Using proper car seats for children can mean the difference between life or death in the case of an accident.

Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

According to Safe Ride 4 Kids, 723 American children aged 12 and under died as occupants in a motor vehicle crash in 2016 alone.

Of those, 35 percent were not properly restrained inside the car, either in a car seat or with a seat belt.

While using car seats can make a tremendous difference in safety, parents must know how to use the car seat properly.

Unsplash | Brittany Simuangco

This includes understanding which car seats to buy as per your child's age and weight, as well as keeping your child restrained in a specific type of car seat until they're at an acceptable size/age to sit either without one or in a different one.

Previously, the rule was that infants must use rear-facing car seats until the age of 2, but now recommendations have changed.

Unsplash | Jelleke Vanooteghem

According to Cafe Mom new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that parents keep children in rear-facing seats for "as long as possible."

Rather than determining car seat use by a child's age, the AAP recommend going by height/weight restrictions instead.

Flickr | HomeStreet Bank

This would mean abiding by an individual car seat's specific max height and weight restrictions, as opposed to simply stopping car seat use altogether after a child turns 2 years old.

In a rear-facing car seat, children are as best protected against car crash injuries as possible.

The child's head, neck, and spine are protected by the hard shell of the car seat, which would absorb a significant amount of the impact, if the vehicle were to crash.

In forward-facing seats, kid's bodies are restrained by harness straps but their heads are left vulnerable. In the event of a crash, this could lead to spine and head injuries.

Most rear-facing seats can fit children weighing up to about 40 pounds.

Unsplash | Ben Wicks

Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, the lead author of the policy statement and chairman of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, told Cafe Mom that it's important parents think about safety before graduating their children up to forward-facing seats.

"The orientation of most parents toward milestones for their kids is that the next stage is positive," he said. "Where one of the things that we know with child=passenger safety, is that parents should actually think of it as the opposite."

"You lose protection as you go from rear-facing to forward-facing, forward-facing to booster, and booster to seat belt."

Unsplash | Jenn Evelyn-Ann

After your child reaches the right weight for front-facing car seats, experts recommend waiting until they exceed the height and weight limits, usually 65 pounds, before moving on to the next seating stage - booster seats.

The AAP says using car safety seats reduce the risk of serious injury by 70 percent.

Unsplash | Thiago Cerqueira

Keeping this in mind, it certainly sounds worthwhile to abide by the AAP's guidelines. These rules aren't to inconvenience anyone, but to make sure children are as safe as possible while inside vehicles, and that's something we can all agree is of the upmost importance.

h/t: Cafe Mom

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