Studies have proven that infant and child car seats protect children and save lives. Now the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are urging stricter guidelines for children under 2 that they say will save more lives.
Currently, parents are instructed to put infants up to 12 months of age or 20 pounds in rear-facing car seat. At a year old, the infant can be placed in a front-facing car seat. But a review of a 2007 study demonstrating that children ages 12 to 23 months were five times more likely to die or be seriously injured in front-facing car seats compared to rear-facing ones has led both the AAP and the NHTSA to support new guidelines urging parents to keep babies in rear-facing seats until age 2, or longer if possible.
The new guideline also recommends that children remain in a seat with a five-point safety harness as long as possible and only transition to a booster seat that uses the car’s adult seat belts when children exceed the height and weight limit for the five-point harness. AAP also suggests children remain in the booster seats until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall, a height most children reach between the ages of 8 and 12. The Academy also suggests children remain in the back seat until they reach the age of 13.
The recommendations come too late for Jim Peralta’s grandson. The little boy was 18 months old and in a front-facing car seat when he broke his neck in a car crash. He was in a medically induced coma for 21 days after neck surgery while his family waited to see if the little boy would walk or talk or even survive the ordeal. During that time his grandfather pored over safety and crash research, and found studies that showed no real scientific basis for the 12-month/20-pound front-facing car seat policy. Jim created a website and began lobbying NHTSA and other organizations to establish stronger child restraint rules. His hard work is finally paying off. Both NHTSA and AAP worked to strengthen the new rules.
Jim’s grandson is now 4, and is about 90 percent recovered. He rides in a rear-facing car seat special ordered from Sweden. Jim is ecstatic about the new guidelines, and says he hopes they will keep other parents and grandparents from experiencing the same tragedy.