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Kids safest in rear-facing car seats until age 2

March 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
This might come as a shock to many parents.

You're going to have to keep your kids rear facing in your car until at least 2 years old. And you may be surprised at how long you're going to have to hang on to that booster seat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said if you've just turned your car seat to face forward, you may have to turn it back around.

"Before, parents were instructed that at 1-year-old or 20 pounds, that they can turn their children forward facing," said Charmaine Fajarado from California Highway Patrol. "That recommendation is now increased to 2 years old."

A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention found that kids under 2 years old are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash in a rear-facing seat.

But you don't have to stop at 2 years old. CHP car seat safety experts said the longer you keep your child facing the rear, the safer he or she will be.

"They do make several seats," said Fajarado. "Some seats will go all the way up to 65 pounds."

But no seat is safe unless you install it correctly. It's not as simple as flipping the seat. You may need a pool noodle or a towel to get the required 45 degree angle.

A common mistake is the harness or belts are put in the wrong slots. Also be sure and check the labels. And if you have a fussy child who refuses to face the rear, remember this-

"We'd much rather see children, if they were to be involved in a collision, have an injury to their leg rather than have a fatal injury," said Fajarado.

Another common mistake is where the harness straps fall. They should be at or above the shoulder. If it is rear facing they have to be at or below the shoulder, and the retainer clip at the center of the chest.

If you're thinking you're older child no longer needs a booster, you may be wrong. The new recommendations say keep your kid in a booster until they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall.

"Booster seats are basically designed to boost the child up so their seat belt fits them properly," said Fajarado.

If you have one child, put the seat in the rear middle. The second safest position is on the rear passenger side.

Officer Farjardo also said a child must remain riding in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old. This reduces the risk of injury by 40 to 70 percent.