By Laura Thornquist
Special to The Press
Nashville – The view of the road will be a bit different for some of Tennessee’s children if their parents follow new guidelines for car seat use.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that parents keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until they are at least 2 years old, instead of flipping them around at age 1 or when they weigh 20 pounds.
Injury-prevention expert Kathryn Wesolowski says parents should understand that this is one stage of development they should not rush.
“We mark it as sort of a right of passage, but it isn’t. Each time we make a change, a child loses a little bit of protection. We shouldn’t be in such a hurry to make a transition.”
The revision is based on research showing that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die in a car crash if they are in rear-facing seat.
Other revised guidelines suggest that, regardless of age, children should ride in a booster seat until they reach a height of 4 feet 9 inches – tall enough for seat belts to fit them properly – and all children should ride in a back seat until age 13.
Tennessee law requires a safety seat for children through age 3 and a booster seat for children under age 8 and shorter than 4 feet 9 inches tall.
Motor vehicle collisions are kids’ number one cause of death, according to Dr. Mike Gittelman, an expert in pediatric emergency medicine.
He says “buckling up” properly should be a priority for everyone in a vehicle.
“If we can keep people properly restrained while they’re in the motor vehicle, we can actually have significant reductions in injuries.”
Families who have questions should seek the help of a nationally certified child passenger-safety technician in their community. Many health and fire departments offer that kind of assistance, as well as help with installing children’s safety seats.
More information about the new guidelines is available at www.aap.org.