A new law goes into effect today, November 1, 2019, that requires drivers to keep infants and young toddlers in rear-facing child safety seats until they are at least 2 years old or reach the maximum height and weight for the seat being used. The new law seeks to better protect vulnerable babies and toddlers, who often have disproportionately large and heavy heads and are at risk of serious neck, head and spinal injuries when thrown forward in forward-facing car seats. More than 4,000 youngsters, ages 4 and under, were injured or killed in car crashes in New York state from 2017–18. NYU Winthrop Hospital, which sees many pediatric emergency room visits due to vehicle collisions, is heralding this safety improvement that was championed in the State Legislature by AAA Northeast. AAA was at NYU Winthrop Hospital today to explain the new law, with an AAA technician also demonstrating proper installation of rear-facing car seats.
“Prior to their teens, children have a spine strength that is only about 25 percent of that of an adult,” said D’Andrea K. Joseph, MD, chief of the Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at NYU Winthrop Hospital. “Compounding that weakness is the rapid back-and-forth head movement that can occur in a car crash. It’s well-established that car seats save the lives of children and, in particular, that rear-facing car seats help decrease the rapid back-and-forth motion of the infant head, which otherwise could result in significant and permanent injuries. With this new law, NYU Winthrop hopes it will be treating considerably fewer children with these serious injuries.”
“AAA has been a long-time advocate for this improvement to the safety of our youngsters in vehicles,” added Robert Sinclair Jr., manager of media relations for AAA Northeast. “Many parents want to be able to see their children when driving, but that’s less important than keeping them safe.”
Sinclair noted that many states already have similar rear-facing car seat safety laws in place, including neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut. Children in cars that are driving to or through those states must have rear-facing seats. Additional states with the law include Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, California, Oklahoma, and Oregon. In New York state alone, more than 14,000 tickets were issued from 2017–18 for safety restraint violations involving children.
The new law now in place is in line with updated recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. A rear-facing seat provides increased support for the still-developing head, neck and spine, and while parents may worry that some children have their legs touching the vehicle’s back seat, the number of rear-facing leg injuries is negligible compared with more serious head, neck or spine injuries.
Safety is also compromised by improper car seat installation. According to reports cited in a recent Parents magazine article, as many as 95 percent of families install their newborn’s car seat incorrectly. Parents in New York can arrange for a child safety seat technician to inspect their seat installation. Most car seat manufacturers also have online videos demonstrating proper installation.
About AAA Northeast
AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit member service organization with 62 offices in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island providing more than 5.2 million local AAA members with roadside assistance, travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.