Quiz time. If you were asked—right now—what age a child should be before they stop using a car seat or a booster seat, what would you say? (No Googling.)
Forty years? (Maybe not forty years.)
The answer may surprise you.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has always advocated for extended car seat and booster seat use. While their previous guidelines suggested that children remain in rear-facing car seats until they were two years old, the revised guidelines remove that endpoint.
The AAP now says that children should use rear-facing car seats for as long as possible, as long as they’re within the height and weight limitations. With car seats now available for kids up to 40 pounds or more, some children will be able to use them far beyond the age of two.
Additionally, after outgrowing their rear-facing seats, the AAP recommends moving on to forward-facing car seats with harnesses (which are often suitable up to 65 pounds), and then to booster seats after that until they can safely use the built-in seat belts.
Taken together, this means that children should have some sort of additional safety protection in the car until they are about 12 years old.
Significant Safety Increases
We can already hear the adults saying, “Twelve years old? That’s not how I was raised, and I turned out just fine.” That could be, but the safety statistics are undeniable. Injuries and fatalities for children have steadily decreased in recent decades, and innovations in car seat safety are largely responsible. When a child properly uses a restraint device, their chance of injury drops by 70 to 80 percent relative to a seat belt. Whatever your feelings may be, those are the facts.
Beyond that, Florida law requires car seats for all children age five and under. Anyone who’s driven on the roads in this state knows that they’re among the most dangerous in the nation and warrant extra caution. Severe car accidents are more frequent and injuries are more common.
Against that reality, the new AAP guidelines make sense, especially for Floridians. In fact, maybe they don’t go far enough.