New car seat laws have children facing the road already traveled much longer

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Stock photo. See photos of local children buckled up for safety in the print edition.

By Juanice Gray, Editor

To see a video showing the safety factor of a rear facing seat in a crash, using side by side crash test dummies, visit https://www.facebook.com/BeSafeDACH/videos/937133393095879/

A new car seat law signed in June takes effect Aug. 1 and is intended to keep infants and toddlers in rear-facing seats for a longer period of time and require that all children ride in the back seats of vehicles until they are teenagers. The new law is based on standards adopted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and unlike the prior law, the new one considers height and weight limits of car seats as well as fit.

Over the past three years, 110 children and youth, from infancy to age 14, have died in vehicle crashes in Louisiana according to the state Department of Health.

Landon, Evan and Ryder Smith in their rear facing seats. They are the triplet sons of Jessica Smith of Coushatta
Triplets Landon, Evan and Ryder Smith of Coushatta in their rear facing seats. Photo by Jessica Smith.

Trooper Brent Hardy, PIO officer with Troop G, said there are three main types of rear facing seats.  One is the rear-facing only infant seat, another is a rear facing convertible seat and a third is a 3-and-1 seat.  Most of the seats today (outside of the infant seat) have the restraints that can rear face to over 40 pounds.

“The reason for the change is due to brain and spinal cord damage associated with forward facing.  A child’s neck is not strong enough to support their head in crashes.  We see injuries such as whiplash, etc., with adults and adults have much better head control than a child.  Also children are considerably more flexible.  It does not require much effort for them to naturally cross their legs to adjust for the ‘lack of room.’  I have heard complaints from parents that their legs will be broken or their child is uncomfortable.  It is much easier to fix a child’s leg if broken in a crash rather than treat a child for brain or spinal cord damage,” Hardy said.

Each car seat has its own height and weight limits for rear-facing children. Most convertible seats allow children to sit rear-facing up to 35, 40 or 50 pounds. The height limit for most rear-facing car seats is that there must be at least 1 inch of room between the top of the child’s head and the top of the car seat.

The new laws state children 2 years old and younger must be restrained in a rear-facing child safety seat. A child who has outgrown the rear facing seat and who is at least 2 years old must be restrained in a forward-facing child safety seat with an internal harness until they reach the height or weight limit.

A child 4 years old or older and who has outgrown the forward-facing safety seats must be restrained by a belt-positioning booster seat secured with a seat belt.

A child 9 years old or older or who has outgrown a booster seat can use the car’s adult seat belt if it fits correctly on their body.

State Police say all children under 13 must also be in a rear seat when available.

Under the new law, drivers will be fined $100 for the first offense, and no less than $200 and no more than $500 for the second offense. The fine will be charged, plus all court costs will be for the third or subsequent offense.