Kids safest in rear-facing car seats until age 2

Kids safest in rear-facing car seats until age 2

New guidelines for parents say children should ride in rear-facing car seats longer, until they are 2 years old instead of 1. The guidelines also say some kids should ride in booster seats until age 12.

That's the advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The doctors' group and the federal agency issued separate but consistent new recommendations Monday.

Many parents mark their children's first birthday by turning their infants' car seats from rear-racing to looking forward. It's been the general rule of thumb until now. 

"All infants and toddlers should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they are two years of age or until they outgrow the weight and height limits of their car seat," aid Dr. Dennis Durbin, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Durbin is the lead author of a new American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement. He says keeping young children in the rear-facing position for as long as possible will help protect their head and neck in the event of an accident.

"We've seen many cases where children suffer serious injuries to their neck or their head when they've been turned forward facing and those injuries probably could have been prevented had that child been in a rear-facing direction," he said.

Even though they're older and bigger, kids up until age two should be able to fit in most car seats.

"The childhood obesity epidemic has already spurred car seat manufacturers to make design changes to their seats to accommodate heavier children," said Durbin.

State child safety seat laws will not automatically reflect the recommended change, but the hope is that parents will take it upon themselves to create new rules for their own families.

The new recommendations also say older children should be in a booster seat until they're 4'9" and between the ages of 8 and 12 years old. Kids should remain in the back seat until age 13.

See the new child seat guidelines

Learn more about rear-facing seats