• Mar 21, 2011

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
released new guidelines today to help parents decide on a safety seat for their child and the best use of that seat. According to the new guidelines, kids should stay in rear-facing child seats until they're two years old, or have reached the height and weight limits advised by the seat's manufacturer.

Whether kids are kept in a rear- or forward-facing seat, NHTSA says it is important children always ride in the back. If the back seat is unavailable, passenger air bags should be turned off when car seats are in front of them.

After kids reach two, NHTSA recommends leaving them in a child or booster seat appropriate for their weight and height until they properly fit in an adult seatbelt. Further, NHTSA recommends keeping kids in the back seat at all times until they hit those magical teen years.

Click past the break for the full press release from NHTSA.

[Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration | Image: visualthinker – CC 2.0]
Show full PR text
NHTSA RELEASES NEW CHILD SEAT GUIDELINES

New Age-Focused Guidelines Help Parents Make More Informed Choices


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.


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  • 28 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      Just leave them at home in front of the TV. Problem solved.
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's time for 'guess that car'. VW Passat?
        • 3 Years Ago
        VW passat - built in manual shades and handle shape.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have a 22-month old who is rear facing. I think if the car seat was improperly installed (leaning too much towards the back seat) then it would indeed be too cramped. As it is, her feet can reach the back seat, but it is no problem at all. And kids (as opposed to adults) like smaller spaces. I'm guessing she would be fine for another 6 months.

      Those of you who oppose this could easily change your mind if you spend a few minutes on YouTube watching crash test videos. Remember, if you kill your offspring and neuter (or kill) yourself, you are eligible for a Darwin award.
      • 3 Years Ago
      What about pets?
      • 3 Years Ago
      Looks like the belt in the picture is not positioned correctly (shoulder belt should be under the booster arm rest).

      Continued emphasis on proper usage seems to be important.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wow, some of you are really clueless. Have you looked at the data behind this recomendation? For the genius that suggested that car seats only support rear facing to 22 pounds, well try again. Many infant seats support rear facing to 30+ pounds, and most convertables go to 35. Graco has a seat that goes to 40, and there is a popular seat that goes to 45. Of course all seats also have rear facing height limits (usually the childs's head must be 1 inch below the top of the seat shell). And for those of you worried about your kids' legs, would you rather a leg injury or a head / neck injury?

      Do even a little research and you'll realize you should keep your kids rear facing as long as possible. My petite daughter is still rear facing at 3 1/2 and doesn't mind a bit.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Indeed, law in Sweden keeps kids rear facing until they are 4 years old...

        Lots of convertible seats are rated for higher weights for rear facing...

        We understand how it can get uncomfortable for kids when their legs gets longer, but some safety seats offer more room for their legs...

        Have a read on the forums at car-seat.org
        • 3 Years Ago
        If the kid "fits" rear-facing then that's fine.

        If the kid is too big, then that's not helpful.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Car seat installers have been giving out this advice to parents and guardians for the past two years. Glad to see NHTSA has spoken out on this issue.

      There is a down side to this though. Kids are growing faster and longer. Their feet start kicking the seat backs when they are about a year old. I have a feeling we will be see longer child safety seats to accommodate this.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am convinced that nobody in the NHTSA has children. The latch safety system is ridiculous and almost impossible to use. Using a seatbelt to secure the carseat works better and its easier to remove the seat if you have to. Nearly all child seats are installed improperly and are too loose. It shouldn't budge at all but the nature of the latch system and the tethers will always leave a bit of slack. They need to institute a ratcheting latch on the belt to crank the tension.

      Past 11 months it is nearly impossible to have your child face rearward. There are also guidelines on the angle of the seat and the weight of the child. Once your child goes over 22 lbs every car seat says to place the seat facing forward.

      You can't let government bureaucrats have their say in the design of anything. There is a near 100% chance that they will get it wrong.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Yeah, I don't think anyone at NHTSA has kids either. Both of mine were in the 10th percentile (read: SMALL) and were twisted like a pretzel facing backwards by the time they were one. I disagree with you on LATCH though. I like it much more than fiddling with those stupid metal bracket things on seat belts. I can never get them as tight as LATCH. I just get them connected, put all my weight on the seat and tighten. They are solid as a rock when I get done with them. We have one Britax Marathon and three Safety First models. The Britax is far and away superior to the other ones - just didn't want to keep spending $300 for each car seat.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I agree 100% on the latch system. Never used it as there was way too much slack, it didn't matter what model vehicle or type of car seat I used.
        • 3 Years Ago
        LATCH works fine - you just need to be strong enough to pull it tight, while using your other arm to push the carseat down into the cushions.

        I strongly prefer the LATCH connections on our Britax seats over the belt-only alternatives. They secure to the frame with very little possible slack.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jeremy: It's not a problem with the car seat. Or the car.

        If countless people can pull those belts awfully tight without needing some kind of ratcheting reel system, then it's a user problem.

        • 3 Years Ago
        All it takes is putting your knee and full weight in the car seat while tightening the straps. Engineering a ratcheting system within the seats of all LATCH positions of a car would not be practical at all. If anything it's a problem with the car seat not the car.
      • 3 Years Ago
      How many cars can fit a rear facing seat that is big enough to fit a 40lbs kid? My kids car seats would nearly rub the back of the front seats in my Explorer and Mazda 6. I had to turn off the power moving seat (when you take the key out of the ignition) in the explorer to not push the car seat. Will we all need limos?
      • 3 Years Ago
      I bet if you put a snorkle in their mouth and wrap them in bubble wrap they would be even safer.

      We switched to forward facing at 1yo with my son. Imagine staring at the seat whenever you are in your car. That is what a rear facing seat is like to a child.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Has anyone seen what the new Lambo LP7 looks like ?
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Kids are supremely flexible. My son will ride rearward facing until he hits the 40lb weight limit for the seat."

      Bahahaha, my oldest was 4-1/2 by the time he hit 40lbs. He's 46" tall, and still only 46lbs.

      I agree that internal decapitation is awful, and my heart goes out to parents who've experienced it. But, please, let's use some common sense instead of typical over-sensationalized knee-jerk reactions. Let's start with keeping in mind that the forces involved happen in a relatively low number of collisions. If safety during a collision is a primary focus, instead of worrying more about the car seat or how the child is positioned in the car seat, please focus on defensive driving and driver awareness to prevent the collision in the first place. Not having a collision increases survivability 100%.

      (this was written to all the soccer-moms I witness daily screaming through the school zone at 45mph while on the phone / doing their makeup / yelling at the kids in the back seat in an attempt to get their kids to school 24sec sooner)
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