We have to put safety first. When should you turn your rear-facing seat into a forward-facing seat? When should your elementary child ride without a seat? Is the answer a specific age? Do you change based upon height or weight? Or do you adjust your child’s safety seat according to your own preferences, or the advice of well-meaning relatives? Too often, far too many parents overlook the current regulations for the safety of children in motor vehicles. How do we know the appropriate times to change our car seats?
Whether you purchase a 3-in-1 convertible seat, or an infant only seat, all children from birth until 12 months should be in a rear-facing seat, or until they reach the maximum weight or height for the seat. See the weight and height recommendations, and the manufacturers’ instructions, in your owner’s manual. Recommendations are also usually printed on a label affixed to the seat.
This one is probably the biggest point of contention and confusion for parents and caregivers. Ages 2-12 can be in the back seat of the vehicle, in a forward-facing seat. You just gasped, didn’t you. 12? TWELVE? Yes. Again, the factors involved are the child’s height and weight. When your child outgrows the forward-facing harnessed seat, it is time for a booster seat. He or she should be in this seat until they can sit properly with a seat belt.
How should the seat belt fit? The shoulder belt should be snug from the should, and across the chest. It should not cross the neck or face. The lap belt should fit snugly across the upper thighs, and never across the stomach.
Can your child outgrow the height and weight for the rear-facing seat before 2 years of age? Yes. Are some 2-year-old children smaller the recommended height and weight for forward-facing seats? Definitely. You can always check with your personal pediatrician and local resources for the best decisions for your safety. If you would like to confirm that your current seats are installed correctly, you can check here for a listing of available resources in your state. You can also visit Safercar.gov to review additional safety advice, as well as the latest lists of recalled car seats. Current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics can be found by visiting HealthyChildren.org.