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About face: Rear-facing child safety seat laws take effect Friday

John Joyce
505-5432/@JohnJoyceYD
  • A new state law requiring children to be in rear-facing car seats until they are 2 years old takes effect Friday.
  • On Monday, a team of trained technicians will be available to instruct parents on the installation and use of their model seats.

A new law signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in June will go into effect Friday, requiring all children under the age of 2 to be in rear-facing child safety seats while riding in a vehicle.

Parents are advised to pay attention to manufacturer height and weight requirements on the model seat they purchase. Sometimes kids fall within the minimum to maximum ranges of those requirements, despite having aged beyond 24 months, safety officials said.

Stevie Hoff, of Dover Township, secures her 18-month-old son, Titan Hoff, in his rear-facing car seat in the West Manchester Township Target parking lot Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York County Center for Traffic Safety Director Barbara Zortman said a team of 15 newly certified technicians will be on hand Monday at WellSpan York Pediatric Medicine, 2050 S. Queen St., between 10 a.m. and noon, offering free child safety seat inspections and instruction.

The event will serve as the last step in the technicians becoming fully certified, as well as an opportunity for parents to make sure their children are being secured safely and securely in their seats.

Safety: "Most crashes are front-end collisions," Zortman said. "Rear-facing child safety seats help absorb the forces of crashes for children."

Forward-facing car seats are more injurious for children, she added. Rear-facing seats allow children to "ride down" the crash and minimize the force of the impact.

"Whiplash for us is a severed spine for them," Zortman said. "Their young bodies can't physically sustain a crash like (adults) can."

Some existing models of car seats might fall short of the requirements imposed by the new law, but the industry normally adapts quickly when new laws are passed, Zortman said. Her office is working to adapt as well, replacing old signage and pamphlets that talk about child safety seats and 1-year-olds with those that meet and discuss the new 2-year-old requirements.

She hasn't calculated the cost yet, but just like some parents who might have to absorb the cost of purchasing a new car seat to ensure compliance with the law, Zortman said she can't put a price on the life of a child.

Stevie Hoff, of Dover, secures her 18-month-old son Titan Hoff in his rear-facing car seat in the West Manchester Township Target parking lot Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Mom's perspective: Stevie Hoff, of Dover Township, is a first-time mother who prior to the birth of her 18-month-old son, Titan, read up on all the safety tips and parenting materials. As Titan got older, she researched child safety seats as well.

"We were already planning to rear-face," Hoff said."This is my first kid, so I was always paranoid."

She brushed up on the newest data when switching from the newborn car seat — the kind you take out and carry the baby around in, she said — to the bulkier, sturdier rear-facing seat Titan rides in now. His current car seat has a weight capacity of 5 to 40 pounds. At 18 months, Titan weighs 24 pounds, so he has quite a way to go before graduating to a front-facing booster seat.

Zortman stressed the importance of adhering to the height and weight requirements listed on the seat by the manufacturer, rather than the 2-year-old age requirement.

"Right now most (child safety seats) go to 35 pounds at a minimum," Zortman said.

— Reach John Joyce atjjoyce2@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @JohnJoyceYD.