Aimed at protecting infants and toddlers under age two, Pennsylvania’s new car seat law takes effect on August 12, 2016. The fourth state to enact such legislation, Pennsylvania joins California, New Jersey, and Oklahoma with this effort to maximize the safety of young passengers.
The new law dictates that children under age two must be secured in rear-facing car seats. The only exception to the new rule is for children who have outgrown the height and weight requirements of rear-facing seats. Car seat manufacturers, not the new law, determine the height and weight specifications.
Critics of the old law labeled it as too vague to adequately safeguard child passengers. The old law required that drivers use car seats for all children under age four, but it failed to specify any guidelines regarding the type of car seat necessary. Under the old law, parents were free to choose front-facing or rear-facing car seats.
Improving Toddler Car Seat Safety
The new car seat law mirrors the recommendations of federal government agencies and prominent professional organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
, and the American Academy of Pediatrics
. According to experts, children under age two require more head, neck, and spine support than a forward-facing safety seat can provide. In the event of a car accident, rear-facing seats give children the extra support they need because the seats distribute the force of a collision over a child’s entire body.
Car seat statistics are startling. A child under age two is five times more likely to survive a crash when in a rear-facing seat as opposed to a forward-facing one. Many car seat manufacturers print warning labels that caution parents to use rear-facing seats, but the new Pennsylvania law mandates parents to comply.
Rear-facing child safety seats have been a popular choice of Pennsylvania parents for years, and for those parents, the passage of the new law changes nothing about the way they secure their children. For other parents, the new law offers a grace period for upgrading their car seat equipment. Law enforcement officers will issue verbal warnings, not written citations, for the first year after the law takes effect on August 12, 2016.
Pennsylvania Police Officers and Child Passenger Safety
Pennsylvania state police officers say they welcome the state’s increased commitment to child safety. Even before the passage of the new law, state officers had been requesting that lawmakers require the use of rear-facing seats for children under two.
The Pennsylvania State Police Department
views its role with the new law as more than enforcement. Protecting children during car accidents requires using a car seat that is age and size appropriate, but it also requires the correct installation of the safety equipment. State police officers believe that the introduction of the rear-facing seat legal requirement is an opportunity to assist and educate parents regarding best child safety practices. Some state police regional locations host child safety seat check services to help parents achieve the correct fit and installation of car seats.
Compliance and Consequences of the New Car Seat Law
The new car seat law is classified as a secondary offense, which means that law enforcement officers cannot pull over a Pennsylvania driver solely based on non-compliance with the law. However, a police officer can cite a Pennsylvania driver for a car seat violation if the officer pulls a driver over for another offense.
Following the end of the one-year grace period, the new law imposes harsher penalties on parents who fail to use rear-facing seats for their children under age two. The cost of a single car seat violation, including added costs and fees, is $125 under the new law. The law offers a single exception, which allows parents to use front-facing seats for their children under two who have outgrown rear-facing seats. Height and weight requirements on individual rear-facing seats determine which children qualify for the exemption.
What You Should Do If You or Your Child Are Injured in a Car Accident
Car accidents can have devastating effects, especially when a collision causes injuries to the youngest family members. Many victims feel traumatized, grief-stricken, and ill-equipped to deal with the property damages, medical costs, and loss of income caused by an accident.
If you or your family have been victims of a car accident caused by another person, you deserve to be compensated for your losses. Choosing an experienced attorney is essential for protecting the financial interests of you and your family. The attorneys of Donaghue & Labrum have decades of experience fighting for victims of car accidents, and they have a proven record of success. Contact the law offices of Donaghue & Labrum to set up your free consultation.