The way you need to buckle your child up in the backseat may need to change today, when Pennsylvania's new car seat regulations go into effect.
The new law goes into effect Aug. 12, and mandates that children younger than 2 be fastened into a rear-facing car seat situated in the back seat of your vehicle. Previously, it was just required that children younger than 4 be fastened into a restraining system in the back seat.
The law, now known as Act 43, adds an extra layer of protection for the Keystone State's youngest passengers.
The new law also falls more seamlessly in line with the safety recommendations published by the America Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) indicating that rear-facing seats offer better protection to a child's neck, head and spine.
They are shocking statistics: Of children 12 and younger who died in vehicle crashes, 38 percent were not properly restrained.
Fortunately, that's a statistic we can improve using car seats for children that are appropriate for both their age and size. Studies show that using car seats reduces the risk of injury and death—substantially.
Safety experts estimate that the proper use of car seats reduces the risk of death to children 1 and younger while riding as a car passenger by 71 percent, and toddlers between the ages of 1 and 4 by 54 percent.
Rear-facing seats offer even more protection—children 2 and younger are five times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a car accident when they are in a front-facing seat instead.
If you don't have a rear-facing car seat just yet, no worries—for now.
For the first year, police will only issue verbal warnings to folks who aren't compliant with the new car seat law.
We recommend, though, that you don't delay complying with the new Pennsylvania car seat law. Car accidents happen—and few things are as tragic as the loss of a child, especially when the tragedy could be avoided.
Instead, we hope you'll take this as an opportunity to learn about the common mistakes parents make while installing child seats, and that if you have any questions or issues, you contact someone who can help. The Pennsylvania State Police, your local law enforcement office, and other organizations offer that kind of assistance.
We hope you never have to deal with a car accident that causes an injury to a child, but if you do, know that you'll have an advocate and support system in Edgar Snyder & Associates.