New Pennsylvania Car Seat Law Aims to Prevent Injuries for Child Passengers

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Long gone are the days when parents would load their children into the back of the station wagon and set off on a family trip. Not only is the station wagon, largely, a relic of the past but also most parents today would be aghast at the possibility of having their child bounce around in a vehicle unrestrained by a seat belt or safety seat.  We have truly shifted to a more safety conscious society and most people are fully aware of the steps needed to mitigate the known risks of modern life.

Thus, a new safety law that was signed into law on June 13, 2016, by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is thoroughly a product of our modern times. The Bill is targeted at protecting the health and safety of young children who ride in a car, van, or truck with their parents or other caregivers.

Stricter PA Car Seat Law Clears Up Confusion Regarding Child Seat Safety

The previous child car seat safety law was criticized by many safety conscious individuals. Under the previous law, there was confusion about what exactly was allowed and the lack of an adequate approach to seat safety standards. Under the old law vagueness permitted children of all ages to ride in a front-facing car seat in either the front or back seat. This law was on the books despite the fact that vehicle manufacturers and the CDC recommend that children under 12 always ride in the back seat of a vehicle. Further recommendations cautioned parents from installing rear-facing seats in the front passenger seat due to the risk of injury or death should the airbag deploy.

However, the new law sets forth clear and stricter standards regarding the legal use of car seats. Under the new law, Pennsylvania law now comports with the recommendations issued in 2011 by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the AAA. In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children remain in rear-facing car seats until age two or when they no longer fit the seat’s height and weight standards.

The new law is scheduled to come into effect in 60 days. However, parents, grandparents and others who are not already using a compliant car seat are encouraged to replace the seat as soon as possible. While it is important to comply with the law, protecting the safety of your child or loved one is an even more pressing concern.

With the passage of the law, Pennsylvania is now the fourth state in the nation to mandate that its youngest residents travel only in rear-facing car seats. Neighboring New Jersey along with California and Oklahoma have also implemented similar laws. Pennsylvanians and drivers in the state who violate the law are subject to a $125 fine. However, for the first year of the law, a grace period is in effect where drivers will receive a verbal warning. However, once again, protecting the safety of a child should serve as enough motivation to ensure that the car seat complies with the law.

Study Finds Rear-Facing Child Seats Offer Best Protection for Young Children

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People often criticize the government for passing “feel good” legislation that addresses problems that either don’t exist or with solutions that are not scientifically supported. This is not the case with this car seat legislation. Aside from mirroring the recommendations set forth by the AAA and the American Academy of pediatrics, the increased safety provided by rear-facing child seats is also supported by the conclusions reached in a University of Virginia, Center for Applied Biomechanics study. The study analyzed the crash outcomes for children aged 0 to 23 months in accidents occurring from 1988 to 2003.  The crash data was sourced from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) database.

The study found that children riding in front-facing child seats were significantly more likely to suffer injury than children who rode in rear-facing seats. While the crash outcomes were only slightly more favorable for rear-facing seats in frontal crashes, the differences were significant for side impacts. These results held true regardless of whether the cohort included all children from 0 to 23 months or only children who were one year or older. The study concluded that the “Use of an RFCS, in accordance with restraint recommendations for child size and weight, is an excellent choice for optimum protection up to a child’s second birthday.”

Trust Our Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers to Fight for You

A Pennsylvania seat belt injury lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm will have over 35 years of experience. Let us put it to work for you. To schedule a free confidential legal consultation, call our Bethlehem, Pennsylvania car accident attorneys at (215) 246-9000.

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