The new year means a new child restraint law takes effect in California with the goal of making children younger than age 2 safer when traveling the state’s roadways.
An update to California law effective Jan. 1, 2017, now requires children younger than 2 to be in rear-facing car seats unless the child weighs 40-plus pounds or is more than 40 inches tall. Three states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Oklahoma, have similar requirements to align with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The AAP revised its recommendations in 2011 from keeping children younger than 1 year old or weighing less than 20 pounds in a rear-facing car seat based on research concluding “children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing.”
“A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body,” Dr. Dennis Durbin, lead author of the policy statement, said in an AAP release. Young children and infants are more prone to head and spinal cord injuries due to still-developing bones and ligaments and the need for increased head support, according to Righting Injustice.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends keeping children in rear-facing car seats as long as possible as “it’s the best way to keep (them) safe,” ideally until age 3. Convertible and all-in-one seats have higher weight limits to allow larger children to remain rear-facing for longer, the NHTSA recommends, as long as the child “fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.”
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, all states but Florida and South Dakota require booster seats or other appropriate devices for children who have outgrown car seats but still cannot wear a seat belt properly.