Learn more about new car seat safety laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania children age 2 and younger must sit in rear-facing car seats after August 12, 2016, according to a new state law.

The state is now the fourth in the country to require rear-facing seats for babies and toddlers. Safety experts at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh say the move will keep kids safer on the road.

Since 2011, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have recommended that children younger than 2 remain in rear-facing car seats. Despite this, some parents have continued to follow outdated recommendations that advise children only remain rear-facing until they are 1 year old and weigh at least 20 pounds.

Chris Vitale, MSN, RN, manager of Injury Prevention at UPMC Children’s Hospital, said research has shown children are safest when they are seated in rear-facing seats.

Think of it like this:

  • Most car crashes are front-end collisions.
  • In a crash, everything in a vehicle that’s not tied or buckled down will move toward the point of impact — likely the front of the car — at the speed the car is traveling.
  • Children sitting in a forward-facing position are restrained by only a seat belt or harness system.
  • But kids facing the rear are protected by the entire back shell of a car seat — making them much less likely to suffer injury in a crash.

In fact, children can be seated in a rear-facing position after age 2, just follow the safety guidelines in your car seat’s instruction manual, including height and weight guidelines. Many car seat manufacturers have adjusted height and weight ranges based on the safety of facing in a rear position.

“It may be a little less convenient,” Vitale said of the new rear-facing requirement. “But it matters so much more in the event of a motor vehicle crash.”

Visit the UPMC Children’s Injury Prevention website for more information on keeping your kids safe.