Emily Sutherland of Folsom chose to keep her two young boys, Jonathan and Benjamin, in rear-facing car seats until they were almost two years old.
Starting in January, a new California law will require Sutherland to keep her 15-month-old daughter, Lillian, in a rear-facing seat all the way until her second birthday.
Current law mandates rear-facing seats for children – but only for those under one year.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ chapters in California, and other health organizations, supported the law. They said rear-facing seats provide the best support for the heads and spines of young children in the event of a crash.
Some parents have said the new law is an inconvenience, noting they can’t see their child’s face when they are in rear-facing seats.
But Sutherland said she’s not taking any chances.
“They still just seem so little and fragile when they’re one-year-old,” she told Capital Public Radio. “Anything you can do to keep their necks and their backs as safe as possible in case of an accident seems just kind of like a no-brainer to do.”
Officer Guillermo Garcia, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, said CHP officers won’t stop drivers for violations of this law alone.
“If we do see something after we make a stop (for a separate violation), and potentially the car seat is not correctly (aligned) or if we notice the child is not the adequate weight or age, a citation can be issued by the officer,” Garcia said.
Kari Bluff of Sacramento said she plans to keep her 10-month-old son in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, perhaps until he’s three or four.
To me, the benefits of front-facing just aren't worth the risk,” Bluff said in an email. “I don't see the law as any different as other car seat laws that have been implemented. I believe more states will eventually follow the lead of California and the other states that have extended rear-facing laws, and eventually it won't seem unusual.”
Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 53 into law in 2015.
Its author, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and other supporters have cited results from a 2007 study that show rear-facing seats performed better in crashes.
The study was published in the journal Injury Prevention, and was called “Car Safety Seats for Children: Rear Facing for Best Protection.”
The new law exempts children that weigh more than 40 pounds or are 40 inches or taller. It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.