As parents and grandparents, the safety of our youngest family members is of the utmost importance. A new Pennsylvania car seat law affects the way parents and grandparents throughout the state travel with little ones in their vehicles.
New Pennsylvania Car Seat Law
According to a Morning Call news article, the new child car seat safety law recently passed by the Pennsylvania legislature requires children under the age of two to be secured in state approved, rear-facing child safety seats any time they are in the car.
While the state previously required parents of children under the age of four to use car seats and booster chairs to restrain little ones, there was less specificity in how these devices were used. Under the previous guidelines, parents were free to place their child in forward-facing car seats while driving. That may have made it somewhat easier for mom or dad to attend to the needs of their infants and toddlers while driving. Unfortunately, this positioning is less protective of the child’s safety in the event of a sudden stop or car collision.
According to the new report, Pennsylvania is the fourth state in the nation to enact legislation requiring rear-facing child seats. The new Pennsylvania car seat law goes into effect at the end of July 2016. While police will only issue a written warning to those continuing to use a forward-facing seat during the first year the new law is enacted, violations after this period include fines and court costs of $125 or more.
Why the Law Was Put into Effect
Pennsylvania lawmakers passed the new car seat law in response to updated recommendations on how to avoid car seat crash injuries from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Previously, the AAP recommended that children sit in rear-facing car seats until at least their first birthdays, or until they had reached a 20-pound weight requirement. While many parents tend to look forward to the time when their children meet this requirement so that they may be placed into the more conventional forward facing position, the AAP advises that parents should postpone the re-positioning of the seat until the child is older. The advantages of the rear-facing seat position in preventing car crash injuries include:
- Better support of the head, neck, and spine in the event of a crash or collision;
- More even distribution of weight to absorb impacts;
- Greater protection against severe injuries that are most likely to result in permanent disabilities and death.
The AAP reports that while the use of car seats in general has helped to reduce injuries among infants and children, motor vehicle accidents continue to be the leading cause of death for children four and over. Research published in the journal Injury Prevention indicated that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be seriously injured in a car accident if they are riding in a rear-facing seat.
Pennsylvania Car Seat Crash Statistics
According to statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), approximately 125,000 car accidents occur each year throughout the commonwealth, resulting in roughly 80,000 injuries and as many as 1,200 fatalities. In addition to the pain and heartache suffered by victims and their loved ones, these accidents result in economic costs of more than $13 billion per year. PennDOT indicates that the most common causes of accidents include:
- Severe weather conditions, such as snow, rain, and ice;
- Road surface conditions, such as potholes, gravel, and icy patches;
- Vehicle defects, such as faulty brake lines and improperly inflated tires;
- Speeding and other aggressive driver behaviors, such as following too closely or making improper lane changes;
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- Falling asleep behind the wheel, or driving while extremely fatigued;
- Distracted driving, including using cellphones and texting behind the wheel.
More than 25,000 children are involved in car accidents each year in Pennsylvania. Children are particularly susceptible to serious and potentially life-threatening injuries. Due to their small size and weight, children are at a greater risk of being thrown from a vehicle, as well as at greater risk of suffering serious injuries as the result of impacts with hard surfaces, such as dashboards and windshields.
Common types of injuries that can occur in these accidents include broken bones and multiple fractures, severe head and neck trauma, dislocated joints, and severe burns and lacerations. PennDOT reports that by using an approved child car seat or safety device, you can help to reduce the risk of car accident injuries and fatalities by as much as 71 percent for infants, and by more than 50 percent for toddlers.
Reach Out to Us for Assistance
Unsafe driving behavior such as speeding, driving under the influence, and distracted driving continue to be a problem on the nation’s roads and highways, and require an extra degree of caution to protect yourself and your passengers against car accidents and injuries. If you or someone you love is injured as the result of a car accident, contact the Colleran Firm today.
Our experienced Philadelphia car accident attorneys can advise you on how to hold at-fault drivers accountable for the damages and suffering they have caused. We provide the compassionate and skilled legal representation that you need to seek compensation for the injuries you have suffered, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Reach out to us today.