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Oregon Passes Law to Keep Infants and Toddlers in Rear Facing for up to 2 Years

According to an Oregon bill currently in the State parliament, infants and toddlers would now have to be in a rear facing car seat until they are at least two years old.

According to Rep Sheri Malstrom this is informed by the fact that children younger than two are up to 5 times more vulnerable to serious injury in forward facing.  Opponents to the bill pointed out that toddlers may become troublesome due to the boredom and anxiety at not seeing their parents in the front seat of the car.

However, doctor Hoffman a car seat safety practitioner the only one in the country certified as a certified passenger safety technician says it is totally worth it to use a rear facing car seat even if the child may not like it due to the enhanced safety on offer.  Having helped over 10,000 families correctly install car seats Hoffman clearly knows what she is talking about.

According to Hoffman what makes children so vulnerable in car crashes is that their features have not yet sufficiently developed. They tend to have weaker skeletons, weaker necks and heavier and large head than adults. Such children are thus more susceptible to whiplash and internal decapitation injuries.

The risk of injury through these mechanisms can be reduced greatly through the use of rear facing car seats. A child in a rear facing car seat will not have whiplash injuries during a crash as their head and torso will be pushed onto the car seat thus minimizing the risks of injury. Moreover since their body will be pressed onto the larger surface area of the car seat, they will be safer that a child in the forward facing car seat that may be injured by straps cutting into their body and their head being thrown forward.

However, despite the many positives, the bill could present some difficulties for some child care organizations in Oregon that typically assign children onto bus seats according to their ages. Given that some children are too tall or too fat for rear facing, it would be difficult assigning them to a rear facing car seat. while a smaller child would be safest in the rear facing car seat.

The bill makes it an offence to have toddlers younger than two ride in a rear facing car seat that attracts a fine of between $110 and $250. Nonetheless while some people might argue that they would rather pay the fine rather than have a troublesome child in a rear facing car seat, that argument does not hold water in terms of safety. Some of the best infant car seats for small and medium size cars go for between $100 and $300 and hence it would be better to just buy the seat and have the kid travel safely. Moreover, with more states such as New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and California enacting similar legislation, it looks like the case for rear facing is growing.

Before it was passed the legislators amended the bill to allow children older than 1 at the time of passage to ride in rear facing without attracting a fine. Rep Cedric Hayden of R-Fall Creek jokingly asserted that it was the first time an infant was grandfathered into a bill.

The police and sheriff departments pledged  to enforce the laws from an educational approach in the early days by issuing warnings for a period before shifting to the use of specified fines for parents caught offending the new laws.

Oregon child restraint laws

  • Children need to travel in child safety seats until they exceed the upper weight and height limits of their seats or until they weigh at least 40 pounds.
  • Infants have to ride in the rear facing mode until they are at least 20 pounds or a year old.
  • Children that have exceeded the weight limits for their forward facing car seats or that weigh more than 40 pounds need to be shifted to harnessed boosters until they are aged eight or until they can ride safely with adult seat belts.

How Child Safety Seats Protect Children

  1. They protect the spinal chord, the neck and head which are the most vulnerable parts of the infant or toddler from serious injury.
  2. Places the pressure on the strongest parts of the baby’s body.
  3. Increase the deceleration time for the child thus ensuring that less force is dissipated thus reducing the child’s vulnerability to injury.
  4. Spread the forces of a crash on a wide surface area thus reducing vulnerability to injury.
  5. Make sure the child is not ejected from the car seat during a crash which reduces fatality rates by up to 4 times.