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MIAMI (CBS4) — Children should ride in rear-facing car seats longer, until they are 2 years old instead of 1, according to updated advice from a medical group and a federal agency.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued separate but consistent new recommendations Monday.

Both organizations say older children who’ve outgrown front-facing car seats should ride in booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits them. Booster seats help position adult seat belts properly on children’s smaller frames. Children usually can graduate from a booster seat when their height reaches 4 feet 9 inches (1.44 meters).

Children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat, the guidelines from both groups say.

The advice may seem extreme to some parents, who may imagine trouble convincing older elementary school kids — as old as 12 — to use booster seats.

Don’t even say booster seat to South Florida sixth-grader Vinnie Cilli.

“I won’t. Throw it away,” Cilli said.

Even though the guidelines recommend he continue to use on because he’s only 4’7″, he’s not going back.

“It’s not very comfortable, it has armrests and everything, but it’s kind of tight on your waist and it hurts your ribs a little,” Vinnie said.

Plus, the embarrassment factor is big.

“You drive by your friends and they see you in a booster seat,” Cilli opined.

But it’s based on evidence from crashes. For older children, poorly fitting seat belts can cause abdominal and spine injuries in a crash.

Click the video to see how to properly install a car seat.

One-year-olds are five times less likely to be injured in a crash if they are in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing seat, according to a 2007 analysis of five years of U.S. crash data.

Put another way, an estimated 1,000 children injured in forward-facing seats over 15 years might not have been hurt if they had been in a car seat facing the back, said Dr. Dennis Durbin, lead author of the recommendations and a pediatric emergency physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Toddlers have relatively large heads and small necks. In a front-facing car seat, the force of a crash can jerk the child’s head causing spinal cord injuries.

Car seats have recommended weights printed on them. If a 1-year-old outweighs the recommendation of an infant seat, parents should switch to a different rear-facing car seat that accommodates the heavier weight until they turn 2, the pediatricians group says.

Luckily for parents, most car seat makers have increased the amount of weight the seats can hold. This year, about half of infant rear-facing seats accommodate up to 30 pounds, Durbin said. Ten years ago, rear-facing car seats topped out at children weighing 22 pounds.

“The good news is it’s likely parents currently have a car seat that will accommodate the change,” Durbin said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations appear Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (2)
  1. Ramona says:

    i can understand how a rear facing carseat could be safer for a child up to 2 years old, but my question is, how do you put the carseat flush up to the rear seat when the 2 year olds legs extend past the carseat? In the front facing position, there is no problem, but if you take the carseat and rear face it, where do you put the childs legs? The video I watched shows a child under two years old.

    1. Patti Laird - Safer Kids and Homes, Miami says:

      It’s O.K. to have a child’s feet and legs up against the seat back of the car. Children even older than two will quite comfortably bend their legs to fit. You can show them how to sit with there legs crossed like they might sit on the floor. I find that very few kids actually find this uncomfortable, it’s the parent’s perception of comfort that is the real issue.

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