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6/22/2017 Bill requiring rear-facing car seats for kids under 2 now law
STATE HOUSE – Children under 2 will be required to be restrained in rear-facing car seats under a bill passed by the General Assembly last week and now signed by the governor.

The legislation, which was sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, is aimed at protecting small children by keeping them in the safest position for at least their first two years.

“It has long been known that children in rear-facing seats are much less likely to be badly hurt in an accident. This bill would institute up-to-date recommendations that are designed to protect our youngest citizens’ lives,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “Despite the longstanding recommendation by safety experts that infants’ seats face the rear, Rhode Island law has no requirement. Enacting this requirement will ensure that Rhode Island children are protected the way doctors recommend. Putting babies in the car rear-facing can save their lives.”

 “Most parents know that rear-facing is safer and are already complying with this standard. Pediatricians remind parents at appointments, and hospitals are great about checking safety seats for parents when they leave with new babies,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “But leaving our law silent on this subject sends the wrong message about how important this is. State law should be clear that kids under 2 need to face the rear of the vehicle for their protection.”

The legislation (2017-H 5456, 2017-S 0275), which passed both chambers in concurrence June 14 and was signed by the governor June 19, requires infants and toddlers under two or under 30 pounds to be in car seats that face the rear of the vehicle, in a seat other than the front seat, as long as the vehicle has one. The bill allows children who have reached age 2 or who have outgrown their rear-facing seat by height or weight to use a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they reach the maximum size recommended by the seat’s manufacturer. The law takes effect immediately.

Previously existing state law required children to ride in a child-restraint system located in a back seat (unless the vehicle doesn’t have one) until they are at least 8, or have reached either 57 inches or 80 pounds. But until now, the law didn’t say anything about the direction of infants’ and toddlers’ seats.

Under the previously existing law, drivers who violate the child restraint law face a citation and possible fine, but can avoid both if they provide proof of purchase of a federally approved child restraint system to the issuing police department within seven days.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, AAA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Lifespan and the Rhode Island State Police all testified in support of the bill in committee.

 A 2007 study in the journal “Injury Prevention” found that children under 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured during a collision if they are rear-facing. Another study found riding rear-facing to be five times safer than forward-facing.

The legislation was cosponsored in the Senate by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence), Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton), Sen. James E. Doyle II (D-Dist. 8, Providence) and Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence) and in the House by Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick). 

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923