HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — The crash tests show the big difference: Rear facing, a child will move into the back of the car seat, the seat absorbing some of the impact. Forward facing, the body collapses.
“What happens is the head snaps forward. There’s a chance, if the collision is severe enough, you could actually be internally decapitated,” says Tim Banyas with Shaler EMS.
Banyas has been a car seat safety technician for over a decade. He says Pennsylvania is actually ten years behind recommendations on keeping children rear facing until age two, a law that went into effect today. He says between ages one and two, studies have shown how devastating a crash can be for a child in a forward facing car seat.
“You have no air bag. So your body is only restrained by these harnesses and your head’s pretty much just flapping around,” he says.
Under the amended law, officers will give verbal warnings during the first year, after which, a citation can be issued for $75. And as for determining the age of the child?
“We make a stop and just ask the parent. We’d like them to be truthful. If the child is under two, we’re going to advise them the safety laws and have them do the rear facing,” says Lt. Sean Frank with Shaler Police.
There is one exception to the law, and that’s based on the individual car seat recommendations.
“It’s written into the law where it’s two years of age or if the manufacturer of the car seat says you can only be in that car seat up to a certain weight and then the next step would be a facing forward seat,” Lt. Frank explains.
Many convertible car seats, that grow with children, can support 40 pound weight limit rear facing. Banyas says keep them rear facing as long as the seat allows.
“There’s a lot of misconception out there. Folks will say well gee, my daughter’s feet are touching the backseat so that means it’s time to go around. That’s not true. The worst possible scenario there if her feet are touching and something happens, you’re talking a broken leg, a broken ankle. Much better than a broken neck,” Banyas says.