Effective July 1, the child car seat safety law will change in the state of Virginia. The amendment focuses on the potential for infants and toddlers to become seriously hurt if not properly and safely secured in a car seat. For children in this age group, it is vital to ensure that the child is placed in a car seat that uses adequate safety restraints and faces the direction that best protects the child.
Current Law Requirements
Currently, the law states that any child under eight must be secured in an appropriate car or booster seat. Through each stage of growth, the child must be placed in the correct seat to protect them, which begins with a rear-facing car seat, progresses to a forward-facing car set, and follows with a booster seat. Once the child turns eight years old, weight and height must be considered before allowing the child to sit in the car without a safety seat.
New Change in Car Seat Law
The amendment to the law requires that all infants and toddlers be placed in a rear-facing car seat until the age of two or the child is at the minimum weight requirement determined by the car manufacturer to use a forward-facing car seat. With this change, the law dovetails with recommendations issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The recommendations stem from findings that rear-facing car seats offer more support to the head, neck, and spine of the child, which are still developing and may be top-heavy until the child moves past this stage of growth.
Car seats must be secured in the back seat of the vehicle as previously established within the law. When a pickup truck does not contain a back seat, the car seat may be placed in the front passenger seat. In this case, the passenger air bag must be deactivated unless no air bag exists in the truck.
Exemptions and Penalties
Exemptions to the new rule include vehicles such as buses, limousines, farm vehicles, and any other public transportation. A doctor may issue a written exemption if the physician determines that the rule does not apply to an individual child due to weight, height, and physical or medical reasons. The exemption letter must always be carried by the parent or caretaker, or reside in the vehicle. A $20 fine will result in the failure to carry or produce the letter.
If a child under age two fails to sit in a rear-facing car seat, the driver will be ticketed and receive a $50 fine for the first offense. Up to a $500 fine will be issued for each additional offense thereafter. Any individual including relatives, sitters, and friends will immediately be fined if they fail to adhere to the new rule. Fines collected will go to a fund designated to assist low-income families in purchasing child safety seats.
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