New Car Seat Safety Regulations Possible in West Michigan
Keeping our children safe can be one of the toughest jobs we face as a parent, especially when the state regulations do not align with the information or recommendations from experts on what will keep them safest. Michigan legislatures are looking to change that in 2018 with new legislation they hope will help parents avoid confusion going forward, bring state law closer to national standards and ultimately, keep children safer while riding in automobiles.
The current Michigan regulations regarding car seats safety state:
- Children under 4 years: must be secured in a child restraint in the rear seat of the vehicle -Infants should ride rear-facing until at least 1 year and 20 pounds.
- Children 4 – 8 years OR under 4 feet 9 inches: must be secured in a child restraint – Booster seats must be used with the vehicle’s lap & shoulder belt. Children should remain in a booster seat until they are about 4 feet 9 inches tall.
- Children 8 -16 years, drivers & front seat passengers: must wear a safety belt
This brand new bill introduced to the Michigan Legislature would up the ante regarding car seat safety with the goal of aligning our laws in Michigan with the recent recommendations from pediatricians and advocates for children’s safety. House Bill 4951 (2017) would update our current state laws to the evidence-based information set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It would add in weight recommendations that are currently missing. It would also strike the “less than 4 years of age” language and require a child less than 8 years of age be seated and positioned as follows:
- In a rear-facing child seat, if the child weighs 30 pounds or less, or is less than 2 years of age.
- In a forward-facing child seat, if the child weighs 30 pounds or more but less than 50 pounds, or is 2 years of age or older but less than 5 years of age.
- In a booster seat, if the child is 57 inches tall or less and weighs 50 pounds or more, or is 5 years of age or older but less than 8 years of age.
These provisions would replace current requirements which are based on a child’s age and height in accordance with child restraint system manufacturers’ and vehicle manufacturers’ instructions and standards. Generally, they apply to children less than 4 years of age and children between the ages of 4 and 8 who are under 4 feet 9 inches in height that require the use of a car seat or booster seat while riding in a vehicle but do not take weight into consideration although experts feel this is an equally important factor in choosing which car seat is best.
The new recommended regulations would target key elements of safety that are still missing for small children. These include rear-facing car seats, front-facing car seats and booster seats by addressing the following issues currently with each:
Rear-facing car seats – Babies and toddlers tend to have disproportionally larger heads in comparison to their bodies while also having weaker necks to support them. This puts them at a higher risk for head and spinal injuries in the event of a crash. Placing babies and toddlers under 2 years of age in rear-facing car seats helps reduce the risk of serious injuries to their head and spine and offers them more protection than being moved to a forward facing car seat.
Front-facing car seats – After their children have outgrown rear-facing seats, parents are encouraged to keep children in front-facing safety seats for as long as possible until the child passes the manufacturer height and weight limits.
Booster seats – Although seat belts are safer than nothing at all, children who should be in booster seats but wear only seat belts are at risk of severe abdominal, head and spinal injuries in the event of a crash. Children who have outgrown their front-facing safety seats can move on to booster seats once they fit the new required height and weight. A booster seat will make it so that the seat belt fits a child for maximum safety. This would ensure the lap portion of the belt falling across the hips and pelvis and the shoulder portion hitting across the middle of the chest and shoulder. Children should remain in their booster seats until a seat belt fits them properly without the booster and reach the required age limit of 8 years old.
Before moving your child into a lap belt, parents should ask themselves three questions…
- Can my child sit against the vehicle seat back with knees bent at the edge of the vehicle seat without slouching and stay in this position comfortably throughout the trip?
- Does the shoulder belt lie across the middle of the chest and shoulder, and not against my child’s neck or face?
- Is the lap belt low and snug across the upper thighs, and not against my child’s abdomen?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, your child is not ready to ride without a booster seat. Once the seat belt fits across the hips, pelvis, chest and shoulders properly without a booster, a child can use the seat belt built into the vehicle on its own. Typically, that is between the ages of 8 and 12 years.
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