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Measure Would Require Rear-Facing Car Seats Until Age 2 In Oregon

<p>An infant sits in a rear facing car seat at the grand opening of the Dorel Juvenile Group Car Seat Inspection Station in Columbus, Ind. Thursday, April 28, 2011. The newly opened station provides families with car seat education and installation. (AJ Mast / AP Images for Dorel Juvenile Group)</p>

AJ Mast

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An infant sits in a rear facing car seat at the grand opening of the Dorel Juvenile Group Car Seat Inspection Station in Columbus, Ind. Thursday, April 28, 2011. The newly opened station provides families with car seat education and installation. (AJ Mast / AP Images for Dorel Juvenile Group)

Parents would have to keep their small children in rear-facing car seats longer under a bill approved Monday in the Oregon House.

The current rear-racing requirement only applies until a child turns 1 or is at least 20 pounds.

Democratic Rep. Sheri Malstrom of Beaverton said the proposal to change that to age 2 follows the advice of most national child safety organizations.

"Raising the age that a child should be kept in a rear-facing car seat can prevent serious injuries and save the lives of children," she said.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, four states — California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma — currently require children up to the age of 2 to ride in rear-facing car seats.

The measure passed the House 48-9 and now heads to the Oregon Senate.

One lawmaker who voted against the measure said he won't obey the new requirement if the bill is signed into law.

Republican Dallas Heard of Roseburg said his now 3-year-old son hated his rear-facing car seat and repeatedly threw up on himself until he was switched to the forward-facing position.

Heard's wife is pregnant with another son and the lawmaker said if the child handles rear-facing car seats like his older sibling did, "he will face the front."

"I will pay the fine, and be glad to do so," said Heard.

But it's unlikely Heard would be fined, at least initially.

"It's not the intent of this legislation to give law enforcement a new reason to ticket parents and guardians," said Malstrom. "Police have committed to an educational period to make sure that all parents are aware of this change in statute."

Parents of toddlers between the age of 1 and 2 who have already turned their child's seat to the forward-facing position wouldn't need to switch their child back to rear-facing. As written, the bill would exempt children who have turned 1-year-old before the effective date of the measure.

"It may be the first time a 1-year-old has gotten a grandfather clause in a bill," quipped Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg, who voted in favor of the measure.

The American Academy of Pediatrics revised its guidelines for child safety seats in 2011 to recommend a child stay in rear-facing seats until at least age 2.

The organization cited a 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention that showed "children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing."

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.