Car crashes are the leading cause of death in U.S. children under the age of 12. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced changes in recommendations for car seat use. Prior to this announcement, the standard for forward facing babies in car seats was 1 year and 20 pounds. However, new guidelines are meant to address the clear evidence that this guideline was too early.

New recommendations suggest parents keep children rear-facing until 2 years old and until they reach the maximum height and weight as defined by their car seat manual. And, for many of these rear-facing seats, that weight limit can be upwards of 40 pounds. When an infant has outgrown an infant carrier seat, it is suggested that a convertible seat is next in line keeping the child rear-facing. Convertible seats have the ability to become forward-facing, once the age and weight limits are met.

Check out the following YouTube video if you’d like a visual on the importance of rear-facing:

New Boostering recommendations also suggest that children ride in a belt-positioning booster until they are at least 4 foot 9 inches and 8-12 years old.

Equally important to these new recommendations is car seat use. Because what is the point of a car seat if you’re not using it correctly? The Daily Momtra blog has some great illustrations of proper car seat use, complete with visual guidelines. Highlights include: make sure to position the chest clip properly; do NOT use aftermarket products such as strap covers or pads; ensure the harness is at the proper height and tightness; position the seat at the proper angle; do NOT dress your child in bulky clothing; follow proper age guidelines for forward and rear facing, and 5-point harness use.

The bolded above is VERY important here in Maine, and any location that experiences harsh weather winters. Check out the Car Seats Made Easy blog for a great pictorial of why. You may think that you are doing your child a favor by keeping them warm as you buckle them in. But, bulky jackets and clothing will create gaps between your child’s body at the harness. When the bulky clothes compresses upon an impact, your child becomes vulnerable to the extent that they could even slip right out of the seat! The best thing you can do it utilize a blanket or other item that will not interfere with the car seat harness.

Visit Maine’s Bureau of Highway Safety for specific Maine Law on car seats, and to download their brochure about what the legal requirements are here in Maine.

To have your car seat installation inspected by a professional, check out the following for a list of locations and inspection times. It’s free!!!

For more information, visit healthychildren.org to review the most up to date guidelines and recommendations for car seat use.

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