(RNN) - In an update of its car seat safety advice, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that parents keep their infants in rear-facing car seats as long as they can.
Infants should keep their rear-facing seats "until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat," the professionals said.
The hard shell of rear-facing car seats supports the head, neck and spine of young passengers, protecting those vulnerable body parts from crash forces. This is key in toddlers, who have large, heavy heads in proportion to their bodies.
In front-facing car seats, a toddler stands at greater risk of injury from their head being thrown forward than they would in a rear-facing seat, the experts said.
Previously, parents were told children could graduate to front-facing seats at age 2.
"Fortunately, car seat manufacturers have created seats that allow children to remain rear-facing until they weigh 40 pounds or more, which means most children can remain rear-facing past their second birthday" said Benjamin Hoffman, lead author of the new policy statement, which will be published in the November 2018 issue of Pediatrics.
Though the pediatrics group said rear-facing car seats are safer for infants and toddlers, they don't have enough scientific data to ascertain at what age children can safely graduate to front-facing car seats.
"If you have a choice, keeping your child rear-facing as long as possible is the best way to keep them safe,” Hoffman said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that once children graduate to forward-facing car seats, they should stay in those seats as long as possible, until about 65 pounds.
They should then be seated in booster seats until they are tall enough - at about 4'9" - for seat belts to fit properly.
Experts also say the back seat is the safest place for children younger than 13 to ride.