AAP Car Seat Guidelines

AAP Car Seat Guidelines – 4 tips every parent should know

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American Academy of Pediatrics

AAP Car Seat Guidelines

The truth is that riding in the car poses a risk to everyone in it, especially if there’s an accident. This is also true for children, so it’s important that there are strict guidelines in place to keep them safe. Organizations like the AAP, or American Academy of Pediatrics, know what will keep a child protected, so their car seat recommendations should not only be trusted, but followed to ensure that your little ones are as safe as can be.


Child car seat guidelines are designed to keep kids safe while they are passengers in the car. The rules are broken down into ages. This is because seatbelts can’t effectively protect a person if they aren’t tall enough and are under a certain weight. Until a child reaches this point, they need a little more help to keep them out of harm’s way. Here are the most widely-recognized recommendations. They should be followed not only to keep your offspring safe, but because these rules sometimes are backed up by laws. You’ll need to look into your state laws to see the specific requirements for your area. You can also check out http://kidsittingsafe.com/ for helpful information to protect your whole family.

1. Children under 2 to be in a rear facing child seat

AAP car seat guidelines recommend rear facing seats until age 2

Children that are under the age of 2 are the most at risk because they are so small and fragile. For this reason, it’s suggested that they ride in a seat that is rear-facing until they are big enough for a different car seat. While these should generally be used until a child is around 2 years old, the seat will have a weight restriction. However, Extended Rear Facing Car Seats are becoming more popular and are highly recommended here at Kid Sitting Safe. You should use a seat until your child is too heavy for the product you have.

A rear-facing seat is a seat that does not face the windshield of the car. Instead it faces the back of the car, and often has an elaborate setup, so it can be secured properly with seatbelts and straps in the back of a car. This keeps the car seat from moving around when a car is in motion.

“The ‘age 2’ recommendation is not a deadline, but rather a guideline to help parents decide when to make the transition,” said Dennis Durbin, MD, FAAP, lead author of the latest AAP policy statement (April 2011 issue of Pediatrics). “Smaller children will benefit from remaining rear-facing longer, while other children may reach the maximum height or weight before 2 years of age.”

Various studies have been carried out on rear facing vs forward facing car seats and the results all confirm that children are significantly safer being rear facing. As we reported in our compilation of car seat statistics, one major study concluded there is a 76% increase in risk of serious injury of newborns to 2-year-olds in a car crash when in forward-facing car seats compared to rear-facing car seats.

The Evenflo Embrace is a highly rated rear facing infant car seat – check out our review here.

2. Toddlers to be in a forward facing child seat with harness

After a child outgrows their rear-facing seat, they can move up to a forward-facing seat. This type of car seat faces a windshield and is the type of seat you are most used to seeing. It often has a specialized harness to strap the child into place and can be securely fastened by using a regular seat belt. This seat can be used until a child outgrows it by getting too tall or reaching a certain weight.

Convertible Car Seats adapt from rear facing to forward facing as your child grows – we review 3 top choices for your younger ones here. The Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite also offers excellent value for a convertible car seat and is very popular and highly rated.

3. Grade school kids to be in a belt positioning booster seat

After a child becomes big enough to not need a car seat anymore, they may still need help fitting into a regular seat belt correctly. This is when you should pick up a booster seat to allow them to get the benefits of the belt in the car. A booster seat is designed to be used until the child is big enough for the traditional seat belt to fit them properly. The shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not near the neck or face. The lap belt should fit low and snug on the hips and upper thighs, not across the belly.

The AAP car seat guidelines advise that a child is usually suitable to move from a booster seat when they have reached 4 feet and 9 inches in height and are between ages 8 and 12 years old.

We’ve researched the market to find the best booster seats for 2016 – check out this review of 3 high back and 3 backless booster seats.

4. Older kids to ride in the rear of the vehicle

When your kid is big enough to not have to use a booster seat anymore, which happens between ages 8 and 12, they can start to use the seat belt that’s in the car and won’t have to use anything else. However, it’s still a good idea to have your child sit in the back seat every time they are in the car because it’s safer than the passenger seat. The AAP car seat guidelines recommend that children should ride in the rear of a vehicle until they are 13 years old. Smaller people need to be protected from airbags, mostly because they are not big enough to keep from getting hurt seriously if they inflate in a wreck. Besides that, some States have rules that mandate where a child has to sit in the car.

Additional tips

No matter where your child is in the spectrum of car seats, make sure they use their special seat at all times. When they are staying with a friend or relative, take precautions and let them borrow your car seat if they plan on being in the car. This is the best way to keep your brood safe, even when they’re away from you. Some people even elect to get a spare car seat, so that they have a backup in case of emergencies.

It is also quite important to make sure that your kid’s seat is always fastened properly. If you have trouble, read the directions that came with your seat or watch videos online to make sure you are fastening the straps properly. A car seat is only effective if it is installed properly, and you don’t want to take the chance that it isn’t.


To keep your little guys and gals safe on the road, there are many things you can do to lessen risk. Following the rules set out by the AAP Car Seat Guidelines is one of the most essential things you can do, especially since they are easy to follow, straightforward, and not really hard to accomplish.

The rules themselves set up categories for car seats based on a child’s height, weight, and state of development. The idea is that a child isn’t large enough to fit into a regular seat belt properly, so they have to sit in specially designed seats for the most support. The type of seat depends on their size and how much help they need to get into the correct position. You can find out everything you need to know about these rules and other helpful tips on car safety and keeping kids protected by visiting this site, Kid Sitting Safe.

Remember to always use your best judgment and make sure that a car seat properly seats your baby and fits into your back seat effectively. The straps should also be secure and allow for limited movement. Read all the instructions that come with the item, so you know everything it can help your child with, and so you know when to replace it. This will help you be more informed and make your baby safer.


Robert is a father of a young daughter and has developed an expertise in child car seat safety. He is a keen supporter of the use of child safety systems having seen his daughter come away from a side impact collision unscathed due to the use of a child car seat. When he's not spending time reviewing child safety systems he works as a Technical Manager on major construction projects.

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