MONDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- Children are best kept in rear-facing car seats until age two or until they have reached the height and weight maximums set by the car seat manufacturer, according to new recommendations from a pediatricians' group.
This is a significant change from the prior recommendations, which called for babies to stay in rear-facing seats until they were at least one years old and 20 pounds. Rear-facing seats offer more support to the head, neck and spin of infants and toddlers in a crash, said report author Dr. Dennis Durbin, a pediatric emergency physician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
The new guidelines, developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, appear in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics.
Though the recommendations were meant to encourage parents to keep kids in the seats longer, many parents interpreted that wording to mean they should put their children in a forward facing seat at their first birthday -- way too soon, said Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico and a certified car passenger safety technician and instructor who was not involved in the report.
"There's been this perception that it's a good idea to move from rear-facing to forward-facing," Hoffman said. "But if parents want to afford their child the best possible protection from the leading cause of death for children, they want delay that step as long as they can."
Most rear-facing child safety seats today can accomodate children to fit the new guidelines, the report noted.
The rate of deaths due to motor vehicle crashes in children under age 16 fell 45 percent between 1997 and 2009, according to background information in the article.
Yet motor vehicle accidents are still the leading cause of death for children ages 4 and older. Each year, more than 1,500 children under age 1
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