Child Safety Seats

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released new guidelines for the use of child safety seats. It is important to be aware of and follow these new recommendations. NHTSA’s guidelines could potentially save your child from harm. “Child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers, ages 1-4” (2).

It is now recommended that any child who fits within the height/weight parameters set forth by the seat manufacturer should remain in a rear facing safety seat (1). Prior to new NHTSA recommendations only children 1 year of age of younger were recommended to ride in rear-facing seats. Similarly, children who outgrow rear-facing seats are now recommended to stay in a 5-point harness as long as they fit within the parameters set forth by the seat manufacturer (1). Prior to these new guidelines children over 4 were supposed to ride in booster seats. Booster seats are now recommended only for children who have outgrown their 5-point harness. These booster seats should be used until your child is over 4’9” (1). Prior to this release children over 8 were given no such recommendation. Finally, it is now recommended that all children under 13 ride in the back seat (1).

Even if these recommendations are followed your child could still be in danger if your car seat is incorrectly installed. 96% of parents think their child safety seats are correctly installed (4). However, research shows that approximately 70% of all safety seats are incorrectly installed; the odds are good that your car seat is incorrectly installed while you remain unaware of the danger it presents (3).

Every parent should be well acquainted with the new child safety seat recommendations put forth by NHTSA and take action to ensure that they are followed. In addition, parents should be aware that their safety seat might not be properly installed, which drastically reduces their effectiveness. In order to combat these dangers to your children you should keep them in each seat until they outgrow them. Finally, please contact NHTSA to find a professional to install your seat, or inspect your installation.

1. “The ABC’s of child safety seats by Bryan Slaughter, The Safety Report, Volume 2 Edition 4, p. 61, 2011
3. Bull M J, Stroup K B, Gerhart S, et al. Misuse of Car Safety Seats. Pediatrics Jan 1988;81:98-101