Children are now required by law in Oregon to stay in a rear-facing car seat until they turn 2.
Oregon’s previous law only required children to be rear-facing until age 1 or until they weighed twenty pounds. Now, after Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 3404 into law on May 25, they will be required to stay facing the back of the vehicle until age two as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The bill passed 48 to 9 in the House of Representatives and 27 to 3 in the Senate. The offense of not keeping a child under 2 properly buckled into a rear-facing car seat is a ticketable Class D violation, in the same category as failure to wear a seatbelt.
Children who had already turned 1 before the law was passed on May 18 are exempted from the law, although parents are still encouraged to consider safety information concerning rear-facing and front-facing car seats.
Rear-facing car seats for infants and toddlers are meant to lessen the trauma to the child’s still-forming vertebrae during a front-end crash, which is the most common type of collision. The force is more evenly distributed and the child’s head and neck are kept even with their spine when the force of the crash pushes the child backward against the seat instead of forward against the restraints.
Placing infants’ car seats facing the front of the vehicle is only one mistake that parents and guardians sometimes make when attempting in good faith to safely buckle up their child.
Tabitha Woodie, one of the certified car seat technicians who provides free car seat checks at Umatilla-Morrow Head Start’s Hermiston office, said that the most common problem that she sees is that car seats are not secured well enough to the car, allowing them to move back and forth too much.
She noted that the breastplate of the restrains should be at armpit level, not belly level, and said parents should only be able to fit one finger between their child’s shoulder and the shoulder strap.
She also said that many people don’t know car seats expire after six to 10 years of use (check manufacturer’s tag for expiration information), and that they should be thrown away if they are ever involved in a crash or a recall. That’s why it is important to know a car seat’s history.
“Buying one at a yard sale is not a good idea,” she said.
Woodie said she also sees a lot of parents who think that adding the car’s adult seat belt over the anchor system is a good idea because “if one is good, two are better.” Always read the safety manual and follow the instructions precisely, Woodie said. And even if it seems everything is installed correctly, it is always a good idea to seek a second opinion from a certified car seat technician at Umatilla-Morrow Head Start, or a fire station or hospital that offers the service.
“It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” she said.
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.