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Are you using the right safety seat for your child? Safety groups hope that you are. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015, 663 children ages 12 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and in 2014 more than 121,350 were injured. Unfortunately, many of these injuries may be because more than 618,000 children rode in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt at least some of the time.

Back in 2012, it seemed that parents weren’t getting the message. Researchers reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that few children used the recommended child passenger restraints. But now, according to a September 15, 2017, press release from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), things are turning around.

Study Finds Improvement in Car Seat Usage

Between 2009 and 2015, AAP researchers observed 7,725 children 15 years and younger in vehicles at 25 different locations throughout Indiana. They took note of the type and position of the seats, as well as the location, and then analyzed the data. The results showed that overall, parents are doing a better job of keeping their children safe. More infants and toddlers are riding in child car seats as they should than ever before.

The AAP recommends that until the age of two, children be placed in rear-facing safety seats. In the study, they found that such placement increased from 84 percent in 2009 to 91 percent in 2015. Particularly for toddlers aged 12-17 months, the increases were impressive—from 12 percent in 2009 to 61 percent in 2015.

For older children, however, booster seat use actually decreased from 72 percent to 65 percent. The AAP recommends booster seats for children until at least 8 years of age.

“This study shows that child passenger safety education has been a success in making sure young children are positioned correctly in the car,” said lead author Joseph O’Neil, M.D., “but there is still room for improvement.”

Studies Show Rear-Facing Seats are Safer

A number of studies have shown that rear-facing car seats make riding safer for young children. In 2007, for example, researchers analyzed data from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration vehicle crash database for the years 1988-2003. Children aged 0-23 months restrained in either a front-facing or rear-facing car seat were included in the study.

Results showed that the children in the front-facing seats were significantly more likely to be seriously injured in a crash than those in a rear-facing car seat. The researchers concluded that the rear-facing cars seats were more effective in protecting child safety.

The AAP provides guidelines for parents on their Healthy Children website. They note that infants and toddlers should be in rear-facing seats until they are at least two years old, or until they reach the highest weight and height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. After that, they can move to forward-facing seats.

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