What I heard in clinic last week… (about the new AAP car seat guidelines)

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a official policy statement recommending new car travel guidelines for our young kids. The statement is in response to a report that demonstrated children in the rear-facing position are safer than those in the forward-facing position. And not just a little safer. For those under the age of 2, a staggering 5-times safer. I diligently reviewed these new recommendations with my patient families in clinic last week and received 1 of 3 general responses.

1. “Yeah, we already do that.” Bravo. For most of my young families, I am happy to report the statement about “rear facing until 2” is not new information.

2. “No, I didn’t hear about that.” Great. Let’s talk.

3. “No way we are going to do that.” Whoa, what? Some of my parents had significant objections to the news.

  • What about carpooling situations?
  • What if my kids feet are already touching the backseat?
  • What do I say to my pre-teen who is already out of a booster - and so are all of her friends?
  • What if I can barely fit into the front seat of my car when my child seats are rear-facing.

Valid concerns, all of them.

But these concerns do not change the fact that following these new recommendations will significantly decrease life-threatening injury and death in children.

Despite advances in safety technology in the U.S., motor vehicle accidents are still the most common cause of death for kids from 1-4 years of age. If the claims made by the original article in 2007 are true, 75% of significant childhood travel-related injuries may have been prevented if kids were more optimally positioned in cars. The reduction in injury risk is large enough that reflexively disregarding this new advice would be unwise.

Driving with our kids is one activity in which a large portion is out of our control. Although the phrase “orphan seat” is disturbing, it certainly demonstrates how we can make choices to make riding in the car as safe as possible. No one ever wants to be in a significant motor vehicle accident. But if it were to happen, I would want to know I had done everything possible to keep my children safe. These new recommendations from the Academy are intended to do just that.

I want your kids to be safe while riding in your vehicle. Above all, I want your child restrained in the car, every time it moves. I want your car seat installed correctly, no matter the position. But, think about keeping your infants car seat rear facing well after that first birthday candle is blown out. Consider keeping your kids in their booster seats until they max out the recommended size. Try to keep your pre-teens out the of front seat of your car when backseats are available.

For more information, see the updated information from the AAP or my previous post on car seat safety.