ALBANY, N.Y. -- Children under age 2 would have to remain in rear-facing car seats under legislation passed by the state Legislature this week.
Current law doesn’t require any age for rear-facing car seats, but the bill would mandate it for children under 2, saying studies have shown it as the safest position for babies.
"By ensuring that children under the age of two are restrained in a rear facing car seat, we can limit the effects a car accident may have on their head and neck and increasing their safety as a whole," Sen. Joe Robach, R-Greece, Monroe County, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement.
The bill, if signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would make it illegal in the New York's vehicle and traffic law to have a front-facing car seat for children less than age 2.
The child could be under 2 and no longer need to be rear-facing if they have exceeded the height and weight limits of their seat, the legislation states.
This bill, if signed, would go into effect on Nov. 1, 2019, to give parents time to buy the correct safety seat.
“With the number of cars on the road, and the number of accidents, it is of paramount importance that we protect children as best we can in travel,” Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, D-Ossining, Westchester County, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement.
AAA New York was among the groups seeking the law, citing studies that have shown babies are safer in rear-facing car seat.
The bill cites a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that showed a rear-facing car seat best protects a child's head, "preventing the relatively large head from moving independently of the proportionately smaller neck."
It also notes a 2007 University of Virginia study that found that children under two were 75 percent "more likely to suffer injury if they were in a forward-facing seat rather than a rear-facing seat; for children 12-23 months old, the risk is more than five times greater."
Similar laws are in place in California, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania, the bill's sponsors said.
AAA said that between 2011 and 2015, a one-year-old child was injured in a traffic crash in New York once per day on average.
AAA said if the bill is signed by Cuomo, police officers will be able to enforce it like they do with other car-seat laws, which requires children under age 4 be restrained in a federally approved child safety seat and requires children ride in child-restraint systems until their 8th birthday.
In 2015, police issued 8,695 tickets to drivers for violations of the car-seat law, AAA said.
The penalty in New York for a seat belt or car-seat violation is a fine of up $50; it's $100 and three points on the driver's license if the violation involves a child under age 16.
“Far too often, the victims of dangerous driving are infants and toddlers,” Alec Slatky, legislative analyst for AAA New York, said in a statement earlier this month. “Policymakers must ensure that laws are in place to protect the most vulnerable passengers.”
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