New Child Safety Seat Standards

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised their suggestions on child seat use. See what’s changed.


Back in April, we provided our Top 3 Car Seat Tips, which included advice on how to choose the best car seat for your child. Since then, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have revised their best practice guidelines for child car seats.

And their recommendations might surprise you.

The new child safety seat standards: “as long as possible”

For years the AAP and NHTSA suggested turning rear-facing car seats forward when the child reached the age of one. They’ve now updated the standard, proposing parents keep children in rear-facing car seats until they turn 2.

What’s more, the NHTSA has gone so far as to suggest that children remain in each of the graduated seat types for “as long as possible.” This means keeping your child in a particular seat until he or she has reached the maximum height and weight for that type of seat, regardless of age.

Why the revised standard?

The answer is simple. In the event of a crash, rear-facing child seats provide improved support for the head, neck, and spine.

A lingering problem

Despite the best efforts of organizations like the AAP and NHTSA, ignorance of proper child safety practices remains a big problem, and a difficult one to overcome.

With the wide variety of car seats and vehicle designs out there, it can be hard to tell if the seat you plan to buy is the right choice. In the end it comes down to parents doing a fair bit of research and carefully following the instructions provided with the seats they purchase.

What are the basic rules for car seats?

Here is what the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says:

  • All children should ride rear-facing until they are at least 2 years old or until they reach the rear-facing height or weight limits.
  • Children should continue riding in harness-equipped, forward-facing restraints as long as possible, up to the height and weight limits of the seat.
  • After that, they should use belt-positioning booster seats until adult safety belts fit properly, usually when the child reaches 4 feet 9 inches.
  • Children should ride in the rear seat until at least age 13.

If you’d like to learn even more about proper child seat use, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ comprehensive guide or this helpful page from the IIHS: Keeping Children Safe in Crashes.

Oh, and happy Child Safety Seat Week.

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