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New child restraint guidelines issued

Special to The Post-Searchlight

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has revised its child restraint guidelines to be categorized by age rather than by type of child seat in order to keep pace with the latest scientific and medical research and the development of new child restraint technologies.

Under the new guidelines, issued March 21, NHTSA is advising parents and caregivers to keep children in each restraint type, including rear-facing, forward-facing and booster seats, for as long as possible before moving them up to the next type of seat.

For instance, the safety agency recommends using the restraints in the rear-facing position as long as children fit within the height and weight limits of the car seat as established by the manufacturer. The rear-facing position reduces stresses to the neck and spinal cord and is particularly important for growing babies.

NHTSA said that its new guidelines are consistent with the latest advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advises parents to keep kids in rear-facing restraints until 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer. There is no need to hurry to transition a child to the next restraint type.

“Safety is our highest priority,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The ‘best’ car seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and one you will use every time your child is in the car.”

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland pointed out that while all car seats sold in the United States must meet federal child restraint safety standards, he said, “Selecting the right seat for your child can be a challenge for many parents. NHTSA’s new revised guidelines will help consumers pick the appropriate seat for their child.”

Additional recommendations for child seat use from NHTSA include the following:

• Always read child seat manufacturers’ instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual for important information on height and weight limits and how to install the car seat using the seat belt or the LATCH system.

• All children under 13 should ride in the back seat.

• Children in rear-facing car seats should never ride in front of an active passenger air bag.

Seat belt laws in Georgia

In Georgia, children younger than 5 and any child shorter than 57 inches tall have to be in a child restraint. Children taller than 57 inches or greater than 40 pounds can use adult safety belts. Anyone younger than 18 has to wear a seat belt at all times. The fine for violating the adult seat belt law is $15; the maximum fine for not putting a small child in a safety restraint is $50.

Parents can have their car safety seats checked to make sure they are installed correctly by visiting the Decatur County Health Department at 928 S. West St. Parents who are interested should call the Health Department at 248-3055 to make an appointment.

For more information on child safety in vehicles and to see all of the new recommendations, visit www.nhsta.gov/Safety/CPS.