Child Seat Laws In Flux; Virginia Becomes 10th State to Make Changes

Effective July 1, Virginia will become the tenth state to change child seat laws. The majority of states require that infants be placed in rear-facing child seats until one year of age. Virginia just joined a group of states that have increased the rear-facing requirement from one year of age to two years of age.

California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina all have the two-year rear-facing requirement.

Keeping seats rear-facing until the age of 2 has been recommended by AAA, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Centers for Disease Control, and others.

Safety concerns are the sole reason for this recommendation.

AAA cites the following as support for keeping children in rear-facing seats until the age of 2:
• Children are about 75% less likely to die or sustain serious injury in a rear-facing seat. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
• Rear-facing seats disperse the crash force more evenly across the back of the seat and the child’s body and limit the motion of the head, reducing the potential of neck injury.
• Per the American Academy of Pediatrics (2011 policy statement), young children’ bones, ligaments and joints are still developing which place them at an increased risk of head and spinal cord injury. Rear-facing seats can reduce this risk by supporting the head and preventing the relatively large head from moving independently from the proportionately smaller neck.
• Nearly all convertible child safety seats on the market in 2017 (73 out of 77) could accommodate children up to 40 pounds or more when used rear-facing, a weight that exceeds the 95th percentile for children at 2 years of age.
• The change is recommended by AAA Safe Seats 4 Kids, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Consumer reports, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, , Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Make Safe Happen, and Safe Kids.

As a parent, I know we all want what is safest for our children. However, I distinctly remember how much my children hated sitting rear-facing. And, while a seat might “hold” a child after one year of age, where exactly are the legs supposed to go as they grow longer? Crossing the legs in triangles might work for short rides, but what about long rides?

Given my children are past the age of two, I don’t have a bone in this battle. I’m just glad I’m not one of the parents having to live with it. It seems like the work of people who don’t have children under the age of two. And maybe the work of some lobbyists who see a chance to sell one more style carseat in a child’s lifespan.

Lisa Lippiner covers driving news for, making the roads safer one test taker at a time.

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