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Pennsylvania Increases Safety Protections for Young Motor Vehicle Passengers

Pennsylvania legislation has recently been enacted that will require children under two years of age to ride in a rear-facing child car seat and in the back seat of the vehicle.  This law replaces previous legislation stating only that children under four must be restrained in a safety seat, without specific instructions as to rear- or front-facing. The previous law also did not require that children under two ride in the back seat.  According to the new Pennsylvania law, if your young child, under two, has not yet outgrown the manufacturer’s weight limits, they must be buckled into an approved rear-facing child safety seat in the back seat.

The goal of the new legislation is to improve children’s safety on the roads.  The Center for Disease Control believes that the misuse of car and booster seats reduces their effectiveness. Their statistics indicate that car seat use reduces the risk of infant death by 71% and death for toddlers by 54%.  In 2013, throughout the nation, 683 children aged 12 and younger suffered fatalities in motor vehicle crashes, and over 127,250 were injured.

Rear-Facing Car Seats are Safer

Rear-facing car seats offer support for children’s heads and necks. Babies and very young children do not yet have the strength in their necks and spinal cords to withstand the force from a crash or a sudden stop.  In the event of an accident, the design of a rear-facing car seat distributes the force of a crash across the shell of the car seat.

As the most vulnerable passengers, it is important that children be kept safe in the car.  Use a car seat that is appropriate for your child’s age and size and that is the right seat for your vehicle.  The guideline that children under age two must ride facing backward is critical.  Smaller children will benefit from remaining rear-facing longer than age two, while others may meet the maximum weight or height requirement before two years of age.

Switching a child to a front-facing seat too early proves to be one of the most common mistakes parents and caregivers make concerning car seats. Other mistakes include failing to tighten harness straps, which can lead to a child being ejected from the seat during impact.  It is also important to ensure the chest clip sits at armpit level and not too low. The chest clip restrains the child, but if it is positioned too low, it can cause internal organ damage.  Finally, not all car seats are intended to be used in the rear center seat. It is important to read instructions specific to the manufactured car seat.

In terms of consequences for violating the new legislation, in the first year, police officers have been instructed to give verbal warnings. Beginning in August 2017, violations will incur a $125 fine.

At Needle Law, we help victims and families affected by motor vehicle collisions. Our car accident lawyers provide a free consultation and have assisted Pennsylvania residents throughout the state.  We can be reached by calling 570-344-1266 or through our online form.

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