House approves bill requiring rear-facing car seats for tots under 2
STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today passed legislation sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi to protect small children by requiring those under age 2 or weighing less than 30 pounds to be in rear-facing car seats in automobiles.
“It has long been known that children in rear-facing seats are much less likely to be badly hurt in an accident. This bill would institute up-to-date recommendations that are designed to protect our youngest citizens’ lives,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “Despite the longstanding recommendation by safety experts that infants’ seats face the rear, Rhode Island law has no requirement. Enacting this requirement will ensure that Rhode Island children are protected the way doctors recommend.”
The bill (2017-H 5456) will now head to the Senate, where Senate President Dominick Ruggerio is sponsoring identical legislation (2017-S 0275). Mothers Against Drunk Driving, AAA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Lifespan and the Rhode Island State Police all testified in support of the bill in committee.
A 2007 study in the journal “Injury Prevention” found that children under 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured during a collision if they are rear-facing. Another study found riding rear-facing to be five times safer than forward-facing.
The bill allows children who have reached age 2 or who have outgrown their rear-facing seat by height or weight to use a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they reach the maximum size recommended by the seat’s manufacturer.
Current state law requires children to ride in a child-restraint system located in a back seat (unless the vehicle doesn’t have one) until they are at least 8, or have reached either 57 inches or 80 pounds. The law is silent on the direction of infants’ and toddlers’ seats.
Under the existing law, drivers who violate the child restraint law face a citation and possible fine, but can avoid both if they provide proof of purchase of a federally approved child restraint system to the issuing police department within seven days.
The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick).
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903