How Long Must a Child Remain in a Rear-Facing Seat in Virginia?
Most safety organizations favor keeping children in rear-facing seats as long as possible. They recommend kids should face backwards until they are at least two-years-old. Virginia has now codified the advice in its laws.
Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill in March 2018 that prohibits child restraint devices such as car seats from facing forward until the child reaches certain milestones.
The bill proposed by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, stated a child must remain in a rear-facing seat until he or she reaches at least two years of age, or reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing restraint device described by the manufacturer. The bill will become law on July 1, 2019.
The legislation reflects numerous studies that suggest it’s safer for infants to be rear-facing if they are involved in a car wreck.
The American Automobile Association states children are 75 percent less likely to die or be seriously injured in rear-facing seats.
The new provision adds to a law that says drivers of any vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1968, must ensure children aged under 8 are properly secured in a child restraint device. The seat must meet standards adopted by the United States Department of Transportation.
Many parents are unaware of children’s seat safety laws. They often fit car seats improperly. Under Virginia’s amended laws:
- Parents must restrain children in a properly secured car seat including a booster seat up until the age of eight.
- Children must remain rear-facing until they are two-years-old or until they reach the minimum weight for their car seat.
- If you have a car seat that has a minimum forward facing weight of 26 lbs and you have a 21lb 21-month-old, you need to leave them rear facing.
- If you have a 27lb 18-month-old, you could legally turn the child around.
- Parents must place all child seats in the back seat of the car.
- In older model cars or pickups with no back seat, you can only place a child seat in the front passenger side. Parents must deactivate airbags. The force of an airbag in a wreck can kill a child.
Why are Rear-Facing Infant Car Seats Safer?
According to AAA, rear-facing car seats support the child’s head, neck and spine. They are made to distribute the crash forces across the shell of the car seat.
Children aged two or under are five times less likely to die or be seriously injured in a crash when they ride in a rear-facing car seat.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. Researchers point out only 7 percent of rear-end collisions are fatal. Most deadly collisions stem from side or front impacts. During a front-end collision, the driver moves rapidly forward toward the point of impact. While the driver is restrained by a seat belt, a rear-seating child is more likely to fall backward – into the car seat. Younger children face a greater risk of injury if they are propelled forward.
Northam described rear-facing seat as safer. He said.
“Their head control is much better, their necks are protected if the child is facing to the rear.”
Virginia joins nine other states – Connecticut, California, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina which have a law for rear-facing child seats.
It’s important to know the law. Don’t rush to turn your child around. If your child has been hurt in a car accident, please contact our Virginia car crash injury lawyers at (757) 455-0077.