• AAP Updates Recommendations on Car Seats for Children - 8/30/2018



    The American Academy of Pediatrics is publishing updated recommendations on car safety seats, but the real-world impact on how parents should use the seats in vehicles will be minimal.

    In the updated policy statement, “Child Passenger Safety,” and an accompanying technical report, to be published in the November 2018 issue of Pediatrics (published online Aug. 30), the AAP recommends children remain in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Previously, the AAP specified children should remain rear-facing at least to age 2; the new recommendation removes the specific age milestone.

    “Fortunately, car seat manufacturers have created seats that allow children to remain rear-facing until they weigh 40 pounds or more, which means most children can remain rear-facing past their second birthday,” said Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement and chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. “It’s best to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. This is still the safest way for children to ride.”

    The prior recommendation to keep children rear-facing to age 2 was based in part on a study that found lower risks of injury among children ages 1 to 2 years who were rear-facing. That data was supported by biometric research, crash simulation data and experience in Europe where children ride rear facing for longer periods.

    However, in 2017, questions arose about the original study, and it was retracted by the journal Injury Prevention. A re-analysis of the data found that while rear-facing still appeared to be safer than forward-facing for children younger than 2, the injury numbers were too low to reach statistical significance. The AAP decided to update its recommendations to reflect how the science has evolved.

    “Car seats are awesome at protecting children in a crash, and they are the reason deaths and injuries to children in motor vehicle crashes have decreased,” Dr. Hoffman said. “But that also means we just don’t have a large enough set of data to determine with certainty at what age it is safest to turn children to be forward-facing. If you have a choice, keeping your child rear-facing as long as possible is the best way to keep them safe.”

    When a child rides rear-facing, the head, neck, and spine are all supported by the hard shell of the car safety seat, allowing the car seat to absorb most of the crash forces, and protecting the most vulnerable parts of the body. When children ride forward-facing, their bodies are restrained by the harness straps, but their heads – which for toddlers are disproportionately large and heavy – are thrown forward, possibly resulting in spine and head injuries.

    Parents often look forward to transitioning from one stage or milestone to the next. In car seats, this is one area where transitions are not “positive,” and where delaying transitions is best, according to the AAP. Each transition – from rear-facing to forward-facing, from forward-facing to booster seat, and from booster seat to seat belt alone – reduces the protection to the child.

    Parents should check the instruction manual and the labels on a car safety seat to find the manufacturer’s weight and height limits. When a child is approaching one of those limits, it is time to think about transitioning to the next stage.

    The AAP recommends:

    • Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more.

    • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, until they reach the height and weight limits for their seats. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.

    • When children exceed these limits, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly. This is often when they have reached at least 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 to 12 years old.

    • When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.

    • All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.

    Most important is to use a car seat for every trip, Dr. Hoffman said. Using the right car safety seat or booster seat lowers the risk of death or serious injury by more than 70 percent.

    “Car crashes remain a leading cause of death for children. Over the last 10 years, 4 children under 14 and younger died each day. We hope that by helping parents and caregivers use the right car safety seat for each and every ride that we can better protect kids, and prevent tragedies,” said Dr. Hoffman. 


    The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds

  • Rules of the Road. A Traffic Safety Update from Brandy Nannini, has the honor of working with some of the best criminal justice practitioners in the country. They serve on our Judicial Advisory Board and provide input on our efforts. A few years ago, they urged us to expand our thinking as it relates to drunk driving. They urged us to think more comprehensively and to use the term impaired driving instead of drunk driving.

    Flash forward a few years and their advice is more important than ever. Traffic fatalities are on the rise after years of declines. Drunk driving remains the cause of about one-third of those fatalities and is our top priority for decreasing traffic crashes. However, the drunk driver of 2017 is different than the drunk driver of 1997. Today’s impaired driver is likely combining an array of dangerous behaviors: Distraction, drowsiness, and drugs along with other more traditional safety issues such as speed and failure to wear a seat belt. The impaired driver of today is often more than drunk. It is more accurate to say impaired. Our judges were spot on with their advice (as usual).  As we proceed ahead with our work, you will begin to see us focusing on impaired driving. Does that mean we are trying to take the focus away from drunk driving? Absolutely not. prides itself on its ability to lead. We have repeatedly identified emerging issues and launched programs with our partners to address them in assisting states and communities. Drunk driving prevention has always been and will remain our highest priority. However, traffic safety issues cannot be addressed in silos if we are to truly make an impact in reducing traffic fatalities. If we focus on drunk driving and exclude distracted driving, drugged driving, and drowsy driving, we will miss an opportunity to save lives.

    The term “impaired driving” is not necessarily the best search term on the web, but it is much more accurate. That’s why we have partnered with almost 40 organizations to promote the End Impaired Driving PSA campaign and educate people about the broader picture of impaired driving. We welcome any groups to join the campaign and we hope you will let us know if you would like to be added. 

    My son, AJ, is now an only child. My daughter is in heaven and has been since she was 5 years old. We have had many discussions about difficult topics, beginning with explaining why his sister is in Heaven.  We talk about alcohol and drugs a lot. Most of the time it is just him and me in the house and I love our conversations. This week he will begin 4th grade. We live less than a half mile from his school and he has asked if he can walk to school or ride his bike on his own every day. It would be good exercise, he says. I know he’s right.

    I think about my childhood and I know that I was walking that far to my bus stop each day on my own when I was only six years old. So, why am I struggling with this request? Is it because I know too much about traffic crashes? Pedestrian and bicycle deaths have increased sharply in the last few years.

    In August, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) reported that 73% of their high school students who participated in a roadway safety assessment reported they felt unsafe using intersections near their schools. Highlights of the report (sponsored by State Farm) include: 

    • 40% of schools reported that their school pedestrian crosswalks were not painted properly (29 out of 71)
    • 47% of schools reported that their crosswalk signals did not allow an adequate amount of time to safely cross the street (34 out of 71)
    • Only 9% of schools reported having crossing guards at intersections (7 out of 71)
    • Only 19% of areas near schools were properly marked as school zone areas (14 out of 71)

    I really want to honor his request for independence and exercise. Maybe we will start by walking together so I can show him how to be on the defense for dangerous drivers and to survey the safety of our intersections before giving him a kiss goodbye at our doorstep.

    We will also continue our conversations about alcohol and underage drinking. For those conversations, my number one resource is the Ask, Listen Learn program and Simone Biles!

  • Teen Bus Program, Calhoun High School

    Teen Bus Program, Calhoun High School

    Mark Hoffhacker program facilitator working with developmentally challenged teens to provide safe routes to work and school via state provided bus program.