New Car Seat Requirements

New Car Seat Requirements: What Grandparents & Parents Should Know

As a parent, I always worry about my children’s safety. I can’t tell you how many times I have double and triple checked my children’s car seats before a trip, mostly due to all the horror stories I have been reading lately. Children getting concussions from they’re car seat being turned to early and others with car seats malfunctioning. This was part of the reason we took the recall very seriously when it came to our last car seat. Yes, it was a minor issue, but once you have lost trust in a car seat, you will never think of it the same way again.

In many ways, I consider myself a very paranoid parent. For this reason, I was quite surprised when I checked the news and saw that safety regulations for car seats have changed in the United States. If you are a new parent, you have likely been upset with what you have been hearing, especially with some parents going over the deep end about the changes. Being worried about my own car seats, I looked into some of these changes and here is what I have found….

New Car Seat Regulations

New Car Seat Regulations
At the end of April, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) announced that they were changing regulations with car seats in the United States. While these requirements are usually just guidelines, it has traditionally been written into law in most states within two years. As for the guidelines that have changed, they will be mostly be changing how long children should be rear facing, and how long children should be staying in their car seat.
If you have a child under the age of two, the rear facing regulation should be affecting you now. This new regulation states that children under the age of 2 should remain rear facing in the back seat. As well, it is cautioned that children should remain rear facing as long as possible, likely until they have reached the maximum height and weight requirement for your car seat. For parents whose children have reached this limit and are still under the age of 2, you are to buy a convertible car seat and use it rear facing until your child has reached these requirements.

Many experts have seen this change coming for quite some time, mostly since the United States has one of the highest automobile fatality rates for children under the age of 14. Many countries have already made this change after recent statistics have shown that the old requirements were dangerously early for infants. Sweden is currently the most cautious country with these requirements, keeping children rear facing until the age of 4.

The change that is likely going to be a drastic change for parents effects preteens and teens. New regulations state that children should be in a belt position booster with a high back until they reach at least the height of 4 foot, 9 inches, and 80 to 100 pounds. It is also highly recommended that children have some form of a booster seat until the age of 12. Another regulation being added to preteens is that they should not be allowed in the front seat of a vehicle until they are at least 13 years old.

Quite a few experts have been applauding these changes, finding them to be much overdo. One of the most outspoken on these regulations has been Dr. Dennis Durbin, the lead author of the AAP’S policy statement. In relation to these changes, he stated:
,€œA rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body. For larger children, a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, and a belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly.,€

How This Effects Parents

Many parents are still not sure how to take these new regulations. This story has literally been taking over threads on major news outlets, with parents venting their frustrations and arguing over the best practices. Most parents aren’t objecting to the rear facing rule, unless they have already moved their child forward facing. This change has been in the works since a peer reviews study by the AAP in 2002. A few parents have been going by these regulations for years, some keeping their children rear facing until the age of three (an age most pediatricians are now recommending).

Most parents, however, have been going by the old regulations that stated that a child should be switched to a forward facing position at the age of 1 year, 20 pounds. Some of the most common concerns with children being rear facing longer include children being car sick riding backwards and fussing due to them being uncomfortable with their legs touching the backseat. As well, once a child is able to sit up on their own, they are very curious to see what is going on around them. While it is an adjustment, the AAP and NHTSA recommend that parents buy a new car seat if they are facing these issues and move their children back to a rear facing position as soon as possible.

The parents who are the most concerned about these changes, however, are the ones with teens and preteens. In the past, most parents were able to forgo the car seat about the time their children started elementary school. With the new regulations, children will be in a high back car seat or booster into their middle school years. While there is an age recommendation on the regulation, many are asking parents to follow the height and weight requirement more since seat belts are designed for an average adult male. Along with this regulation, parents are up in arms about children needing to stay in the backseat until 13, due to new airbag concerns.

While parents may not like these changes, they should expect the laws to start changing very quickly in their state. Maryland will be turning these new regulations into law on October 1st, while California is looking at making their regulations for children even stricter. It is expected that most states will be doing the same by the summer of 2013. Since this will be a drastic change for most children, it is recommended that you start transitioning them back into a car seat sooner rather than later, as well as consider buying an extra car seat for visiting friends since you will be responsible for them as well in your vehicle.

What Parents Are Saying

Parents all over the United States are already getting very vocal about these new car seat regulations. While some are cheering these new regulations, others are viewing this as a threat to their parenting style. Some of the things that parents are saying about these regulations include:

For Regulations:

“My son rear faced until just shy of 3 when his weight had me turn him. He liked it fine. Didn’t drop toys where he couldn’t reach them. I would have kept my five point harness longer (age 6) but he vomited into the buckle (ick!) and we decided to get just a highback booster. The other car still has a five-point harness. We had an infant carrier then a Britax. It was expensive, but if he hadn’t vomited in it, would have lasted likely until he didn’t need a high back booster.”
“Kids come first, if it is more safe for our daughter than enough said. She is just turn three and in a forward facing five point harness and she loves it, she knows it is her special seat and it makes her safe. Make it a fun and special idea to have their own special seats. You can not be too cautious when it comes to your children, they are priceless!”
“My two oldest were in high back boosters until they were almost 12 due to height. They complained but I’m the parent and it was a safety issue so there was no arguing the point. Their egos survived…”
“My kids know they need to be 4’9″ for us to even consider taking them out of a booster seat, this means my almost 13 year old daughter who is only 4’6″ and getting ready to finish 7th grade still sits in a booster seat and she doesn’t care, has never complained!”
“I don’t think it’s ridiculous at all!! My kid will be harnessed until he’s 80 pounds, I don’t care if he’s 10 years old in a harness! Our booster goes to 120 and he’ll use it until then. My son is and has always been 95th percentile for his size and he still rear faced until 2 1/2. It’s more of an inconvenience for parents than kids but most parents will take the inconvenience knowing that it’s safer.”

Against Regulations:

“I did switch my girl at a year due to wanting to limit distractions while I was driving. She HATED!!! being rear facing and it was a struggle to even get her in the seat for months prior to her 1st birthday. Her screaming and crying was a huge distractions and made for huge (literal) headaches.”
“Really, the leg smashing doesn’t bother me as much as the view they are going to have, when they are old enough to realize, they can look out the window, everything is going to be backwards to them. Have these people given any thought to the emotional distress the child will no doubt go through, or the Mother, father, person who is driving the car, who has to “hear” their distress, and at 2 years old, their cry is going to be LOUD!”

“You have got to be kidding… in a booster seat until you are 12 years old? Ridiculous. Is this safety or does the industry need to sell new updated seats to increase profits? My grandchildren are tall for their ages and would have been extremely uncomfortable had they had to face the rear until age 2.”
“I think it is degrading to drop a middle school child off at school in a booster. My son is 11 and I would never embarrass him like that”
“My son would kill me if I tried to make him sit in a car seat again. He is 11.”

Great Car Seats for Parents

Like me, you were likely already worried about how long your child will be able to stay in their car seat. You already know that car seats are more expensive, and with the regulations changing, we can expect for car seats to very quickly be changing as well. If you have already sold your car seat or are in the market for a new one, we have tried some car seats that we thought worked rather well for our family. These car seats exceed the current car seat standards in the United States and are some of the most highly recommended car seats by safety experts. Our favorite car seats that are being used in our family are the:


If you are wanting to get the most use out of a car seat, we recommend going with one of 2 options – getting a high quality infant car seat and a convertible car seat, or a convertible car seat with an infant insert. These car seats should save you the most money in the long run and keep your children as safe as possible in the backseat.

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