Virginia Beach, VA (March 6, 2018) - Today, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 708, sponsored by Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D/District 41) which would change the Commonwealth’s law to require that child safety seats remain rear-facing until the age of two or the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device as prescribed by the manufacturer of the device. The bill is now on its way to Governor Northam’s office for his signature. If signed, the new law would become effective July 1, 2019.
AAA has been a leader in the effort to strengthen Virginia’s child restraint law for the safety of children in motor vehicles. “Virginia lawmakers have voted positively on behalf of the children who are riding in motor vehicles and who deserve to have every protection possible if they are in a crash,” said Dr. Georjeane Blumling, Vice President of Public Affairs for AAA Tidewater Virginia. “AAA urges Governor Northam to sign the bill and make Virginia the 10th state to adopt a law that is known to improve safety for child passengers.” Nine states already mandate the measure by law: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
The change, championed by Delegate Filler-Corn, will bring Virginia law in line with the safety recommendations of many national safety organizations including; AAA, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Centers for Disease Control, and others. “HB 708 is a safety bill that seeks to protect our most vulnerable Virginians: our children and grandchildren. I am proud to say Virginia has enacted common sense requirements that will give the youngest and smallest children the extra protection needed when riding in a car. This is a long overdue requirement that will save lives. I was pleased to work with AAA and so many other stakeholders to ensure that our most precious passengers remain safe while riding in cars, and I appreciate the broad bipartisan support from my colleagues to pass this bill.” Delegate Filler-Corn said.
The change is a step forward in safety for our youngest passengers and will send a message to parents who may be confused by the multitude of car seat options available on the market. AAA and leading child safety experts as well as most car seat manufacturers recommend keeping children rear-facing at least until two years of age or even longer depending on the child’s size.
“Children are safest when kept rear-facing in a car seat for as long as possible. Instead of focusing on the minimum weight limit to forward face, parents should consider keeping their child rear facing until they reach the maximum weight limit of a convertible car seat if possible.” noted Blumling, a certified Child Passenger Safety Instructor. “Convertible car seats transition a child from rear-facing to forward-facing and can typically carry a child from birth to the booster stage.”
Currently, Virginia law requires that any child, up to age eight is properly secured in a child restraint device which meets the standards adopted by the United States Department of Transportation. It does not, however, specify how long the child safety seat must remain rear facing.
AAA cites the following as support for the new law:
- Children are about 75% less likely to die or sustain serious injury in a rear-facing seat. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
Rear-facing seats disperse the crash force more evenly across the back of the seat and the child’s body and limit the motion of the head, reducing the potential of neck injury. Safe Kids
Per the American Academy of Pediatrics (2011 policy statement), young children’ bones, ligaments and joints are still developing which place them at an increased risk of head and spinal cord injury. Rear-facing seats can reduce this risk by supporting the head and preventing the relatively large head from moving independently from the proportionately smaller neck.
Nearly all convertible child safety seats on the market in 2017 (73 out of 77) could accommodate children up to 40 pounds or more when used rear-facing, a weight that exceeds the 95th percentile for children at 2 years of age.
The change is recommended by AAA Safe Seats 4 Kids, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Consumer reports, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, , Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Make Safe Happen, and Safe Kids.
A violation of the rear-facing requirement, if signed by the governor, will carry
be the same penalties as the existing law. First violations are subject to a civil penalty of $50 and second or subsequent offenses on different dates are subject to a civil penalty of up to $500. All civil penalties collected for violations are paid into the Child Restraint Device Special Fund (§ 46.2-1097), which is used to promote, purchase, and distribute child restraint devices to applicants who need a child restraint device but are unable to afford one.
As part of North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA Tidewater Virginia provides its more than 330,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding AAA Tidewater Virginia has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. For more information, visit AAA.com and follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/AAATidewaterVA or Facebook at facebook.com/AAATidewaterVirginia