Kids under 2 now have to ride in a rear-facing car seat in Pennsylvania, under a new law that took effect August 12, 2016.
Pennsylvania is the fourth state to require rear-facing seats after age 1. California, New Jersey, and Oklahoma are the others, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Since 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children sit in rear-facing seats until age 2, or longer if possible, citing evidence that young children facing backwards fare far better in car accidents. One study found that kids under 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured if they’re in a rear-facing seat. (Click here to see a graphic from the Centers for Disease Control that lays out broad guidelines for when and how to use a car seat and a booster as your kids grow.)
Pennsylvania law already required kids under 4 to be in a car seat, but didn’t previously specify which way it should face even for the smallest babies. Children also have to be in a booster seat until at least age 8, and buckled into a seat belt that fits correctly until age 18.
While the new rules require kids to be rear-facing until 2, parents shouldn’t assume they have to turn a child around on their second birthday. In keeping with the AAP recommendations, the law says a rear-facing seat “is to be used until the child outgrows the maximum weight and height limits designated by the manufacturer.”
That language was aimed at encouraging parents to keep kids rear-facing as long as possible, said Matt Moyer, a spokesman for state Sen. Pat Browne, a Lehigh Republican who was one of the new law’s chief boosters. But it’s required only until age 2, Moyer said.
“We have no greater responsibility as public servants than protecting our most vulnerable, including especially young children,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a press release in June, when he signed the bill.
The bill gives parents a bit of a break in making the transition: for the first year, police officers are allowed to give only a verbal warning to anyone who isn’t following the new law.
Image courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics.