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Extension Agent: Keep your baby rear-facing as long as possible

By By Erika Bochat
Feb. 25, 2014 at midnight
Updated Feb. 24, 2014 at 8:25 p.m.


RECOMMENDATIONS

THE LATEST FROM AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS:

1. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing child safety seat until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their child safety seat.

2. All children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their child safety seat, should use a forward-facing child safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their child safety seat.

3. All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their child safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

4. 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.

5. All children younger than 13 years should ride securely restrained in the back seat.

Parents often ask child safety seat experts what is the safest seat for their baby. Truth be told, it is not the brand of seat they purchase but the direction the parent faces the seat in his or her vehicle that will save the child's life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics just came out with a new policy statement on child safety seats that clearly recommends children stay rear-facing until age 2 or more for the best crash protection.

The reasoning behind this recommendation is that rear-facing child safety seats support the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers and distribute crash forces over the entire body rather than at the harnesses.

A 2007 study in the journal "Injury Prevention" showed that children are five times safer when riding rear-facing rather than forward-facing up to age 2 or more.

The academy recommends parents not be too quick to transition children to the next step but to keep children in harness seats as long as possible to the limit of the seat. Parents should not be anxious to move older children to booster seats; instead, keep them in a forward-facing harness seat to the limit of that seat.

For a child safety seat to do its job right, it has to be appropriate for your child's age and size, installed properly in your vehicle and adjusted to fit your child securely.

Unfortunately, most child safety seats are not used correctly. The best way to make sure your child is protected is to have a free inspection by a certified child passenger safety technician in your area.

That's why Texas AgriLife Extension Service is urging all parents and caregivers to find a certified technician near them by going to buckleup.tamu.edu. Technicians can provide hands-on advice and instruction to make sure your children are safe and you are in compliance with the current child safety seat law in Texas. The law, which took effect on Sept. 1, 2009, requires all children under 8, unless taller than 4-feet, 9-inches, to be in a child safety seat system, which includes traditional child safety seats with harnesses and booster seats.

Are your children buckled up correctly? Eight out of 10 are not.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in cooperation with Texas Department of Transportation, Victoria Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and certified technicians are hosting a Car Seat Check Up from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at Victoria Mall. Parents should bring their child and know their child's weight and height.

Call me at the Victoria County Extension Office at 361-575-4581 for more information.

Remember: All child passengers under age 13 should ride securely restrained in the back seat, where they are safest - every trip, every time.

Erika Bochat is a Victoria County extension agent- Family and Consumer Sciences.

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