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AAP releases new policy statement on car seat safety

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released a new policy statement advising parents to keep their children in rear facing car seats until the age of 2.

The new policy revises the older one that has been place since 2002, which said infants and toddlers should be kept in a rear facing car seat until they are a minimum of one year old or 20 pounds. The new recommendations have caused somewhat of a debate as to whether the inconvenience involved in the new policy measure up to the safety benefits in the event of a car accident.

The AAP’s new policy is largely based on a study from 2007 from the University of Virginia which found that children below 2 years of age are 75% less likely to experience serious or fatal injuries in a car crash if they are facing the rear of the car.

According to Dennis Durbin, co-founder of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “A baby’s head is relatively large in proportion to the rest of his body, and the bones of his neck are structurally immature. If he’s rear-facing, his entire body is better support by the shell of the car seat. When he’s forward-facing, his shoulders and trunk may be well restrained, but in a violent crash, his head and neck can fly forward.”

Also part of the new policy statement are recommendations that children ride in booster seats until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall and between 8 and 12 years of age.

While safety advocates have praised the new recommendations, some editorials and comments on blogs reveal that some parents feel the new recommendations present difficulties and inconveniences.

The new recommendations obviously do not have the force of law, and every parent is free to do as he/she pleases. Statistics show, however, that the risk of injury or death for infants and toddlers will be reduced in the event of a car accident. For many parents, the inconveniences are worth the benefits.

Source: New York Times, “Rear-Facing Car Seats Advised at Least to Age of 2,” Madonna Behen, 21 Mar 2011.

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