Parents, experts applaud new car seat laws
Published 12:00 am, Thursday, October 5, 2017
WILTON — With a one-year-old daughter and a 7-month-old infant, safety is often on the forefront of Rob Cipolla’s mind.
Whether it’s walking, driving or hanging around the house, Cipolla goes to lengths to ensure the welfare of his two children, which is why the captain of the Wilton police force is welcoming a new state law that requires children to be in a rear-facing seat until they are 2 years old or weigh at least 30 pounds.
“There has always been the recommendation that you keep your child rear facing as long as possible, the only difference now is that it is backed by CT General Statue. Essentially, the research has shown that keeping young children rear facing enhances their safety if a collision were to occur.”
The current law says children’s car seats can be turned forward by the time they are 1 and weigh 20 pounds. Many parents, safety advocates and physicians applauded the new law, saying keeping children rear-facing for longer minimizes their risk of spine and neck injuries in the event of a car accident.
“Forward-facing and five-point restraint systems will keep small children more secure and certainly safer in a collision,” said Sgt. Andrew Gallagher, who heads the Stamford Police Department’s traffic unit. “The biggest drawback will be parents having to convince their growing and rambunctious children to stay in restraint systems as they get bigger.”
Dr. Harris Jacobs, chairman of pediatrics at Bridgeport Hospital, said the rear-facing seat has more of a protective effect for a front-impact crash than a rear impact, because of the way the body moves in those respective aspects. But, overall, Jacobs said, raising the age and weight limits is a good idea, and will help keep children safer.
“Babies don’t have as much head control when they’re young as when they’re older,” Jacobs said. “If they’re rear-facing, their head is less likely to get thrown around.”
Despite the extra costs the change of law might incur, Cipolla welcomed it as an improvement. For him, keeping his daughter rear-facing for a little longer and purchasing a new seat for his newborn is a small price to pay.
“What it boils down to is safety,” said Cipolla. “At the end of the day though there is no expense to great when it involves the safety of your children.”
In addition to changing standards for how long children can be rear-facing, the new law makes several other changes. For instance, it states children have to remain in a booster seat until they are 8 years old and weigh at least 60 pounds. Under the current law, 7 is the minimum age for kids to leave the booster seat. Jacobs said keeping children in a booster seat longer is a good idea, as adult seat belts do not fit correctly on children until they reach a certain size.
The new law will make the state consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ car seat guidelines. In 2011, the academy announced it was changing the standards, stating that rear-facing seats do a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in an accident, as they distribute the impact of the crash over the entire body.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death for children in the United States. According to the CDC, 663 children 12 and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes during 2015, and more than 121,350 were injured in 2014.
Yet, many families do not take even basic precautions to protect children in the car. Of the children 12 and younger who died in a crash in 2015, about 35 percent were not buckled up.
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