On Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam ceremonially signed legislation aimed at making car rides safer for infants and toddlers.
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) introduced House Bill 708. It ensures that child car seats remain rear-facing until kids are two years old or they reach the minimum weight limit indicated by the manufacturer.
“This bill is very meaningful for me,” said Filler-Corn. “You’re talking about literally saving lives.”
The legislation also expands the reasons a physician can determine it is impractical for a child to use a rear-facing child restraint system because of the child’s height.
Filler-Corn called it a commonsense public safety measure.
“What’s more important than our precious cargo, our most precious cargo?” she said.
Lauren Schmitt recently made the change after her daughter, Poppy, turned two.
“She now loves sitting forward because she can see more. We like it too, but it was important to wait,” said Schmitt.
Schmitt said when to safely make the change has been a talker with other moms.
Right now, Virginia law requires that children up to the age of eight are properly secured in a child restraint that meets the standards of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
However, there are no specific requirements for how long car seats must remain rear-facing.
AAA and Safe Kids are among the organizations that recommended the legislation.
Corri Miller-Hobbs is the Safe Kids Virginia program coordinator at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.
“We want to make sure everyone is getting the education and knows what’s going on,” she said.
Miller-Hobbs said the measure will add a level of protection for the littlest of passengers.
“Up until age two, they’re going to have that heavy head that is going to have a higher risk of injury and permanent damage if they’re forward-facing before it’s time,” she said. “So keeping them rear-facing is going to make sure that they’re going to be as safe as possible.”
On its website, Safe Kids has a car seat guide for parents. It allows them to enter their child’s age and weight and learn more about safety.
Virginia joins nine other states that have already enacted the requirement — Connecticut, California, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
The law goes into effect July 1, 2019.