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Keeping kids safe: Updates to car seat use

11/29/2018 by Kim Lombard


Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for children four years and older. But properly using and installing child car seats is one of the best ways to keep your kids safe while on the road. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), child safety seats reduce the risk of injury from 71 to 82 percent. 

To help reduce the risk even further, the AAP recently updated its recommendations for choosing and using car seats and restraints for kids from birth to adolescence. The AAP now calls for children to use rear-facing car seats for as long as possible, according to the seat's height and weight requirements. 

The AAP's best-practice recommendations also include:

  • Change to forward-facing car safety seats when the kids outgrow rear-facing seats. Kids should be in these car seats until at least age four. If they still fit properly in their child car seat with a harness, keep using it until your child reaches the seat's upper limits for height and weight. 
  • Switch to belt-positioning booster seats once they outgrow forward-facing seats. Children should ride in a booster seat until the adult lap-and-shoulder belt fits properly. 
  • Install and use car seats according to the manufacturer's instructions. 
  • Due to the force when an airbag deploys, children should not sit in the front seat until they're 13. 

Choosing and using car seats is important, but installing them correctly is essential. Three out of four child car seats aren't installed properly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Car seats only protect your child in a crash if they're installed properly. 

To learn more, the below video demonstrates proper installation. You can also read more tips here

Kim Lombard is an injury prevention coordinator at Mayo Clinic.