The Pennsylvania Senate has passed a bill that would require children to ride in cars facing backwards up to the age of 2 and the sponsor of the bill said he thinks it will get quick approval from the House.
“Rear facing is safer because, when there is, God forbid, a crash it distributes the impact of the crash more evenly and there are multiple studies out there that show that rear facing can save lives and reduce injury,” said State Sen. Michael Schlossberg (D- Lehigh) who sponsored HB 1551 which would change the state’s vehicle code.
Schlossberg drafted his legislation after learning that while the state had requirements as to when a child could graduate out of a car seat it did not have any requirements as to which direction that seat should be facing.
His original bill called for a rear-facing seat for just the first year of a child’s life but he bumped it up to two years after talking to groups like AAA, which support the legislation.
“Because of the way that, in the event of a car crash, the forces would affect the child riding in the seat. With rear-facing the (seats) are able to help the child not be as seriously injured,” said Theresa Podguski, AAA East Central Director of Legislative Affairs, who compared the inertia of a 10-pound child in a 30 mile per hour accident to that of a bowling ball being dropped out of a third story window.
Crash tests show rear-facing seats reduce injuries by better supporting the child’s still-developing spine and head during a crash, but there is not much data available showing the impacts of a two-year rear-facing law. Only three states, New Jersey, California and Oklahoma, have such requirements. Several others have laws requiring children remain rear-facing until the age of 1. HB 1551 does allow for a child to move into a front-facing seat if he or she has grown beyond the recommended weight for the seat.
Like Pennsylvania’s seatbelt law, the rear-facing child seat provision would be a secondary offense, meaning a driver could not be pulled over solely for having a child facing the wrong way. Instead police would be able to add additional fines if a driver is pulled over for other reasons.
“Generally speaking a officer has an idea of how to look at a car seat … but a lot of times it is just a matter of keeping an eye out for it,” Schlossberg said.
State police handed out more than 300 citations over the long Thanksgiving weekend for not having or not properly using car safety seats.