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New law would require child safety seats to remain in rear-facing until the age of two

Photo: File Photo, Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (WSET) -- The Virginia General Assembly has passed a bill that would change the state's law to require child safety seats remain rear facing until the age of two, or the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device.

The bill now heads to Governor Ralph Northam's desk for consideration.

AAA said it supports the bill.

"Virginia lawmakers have voted positively on behalf of the children who are riding in motor vehicles and who deserve to have every protection possible if they are in a crash," said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager – Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "AAA urges Gov. Northam to sign the bill and make Virginia the 10th state to adopt regulations that are known to improve safety for child passengers."

AAA said that children are 75-percent less likely to die or sustain serous injury in a rear facing seat.

Nine states already mandate the measure by law: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

"HB 708 is a safety bill that seeks to protect our most vulnerable Virginians: our children and grandchildren. I am proud to say Virginia has enacted common sense requirements that will give the youngest and smallest children the extra protection needed when riding in a car. This is a long overdue requirement that will save lives. I was pleased to work with AAA and so many other stakeholders to ensure that our most precious passengers remain safe while riding in cars, and I appreciate the broad bipartisan support from my colleagues to pass this bill,” said Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, who sponsored the bill.

The current law requires that any child, up to age eight is properly secured in a child restraint device that meets the standards adopted by the United States Department of Transportation.

It doesn't specify how long the child passenger safety seat must remain rear facing.

Exceptions to the requirement, under the current law, can be made if a doctor determines that the use of a child restrain system is impractical for size, physical unfitness, or other medical reasons.

Those with a child in the vehicle would have to carry a signed written statement from a physician at all times.

A violation of the new law, if signed, would be the same as existing penalties: first violations are subject to a civil penalty of $50 and second or subsequent offenses on different dates are subject to a civil penalty of up to $500.

If signed, the new law would become effective July 1, 2019.

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