On Thursday, June 22, 2017, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed into law a bill requiring that caregivers keep their children in a rear-facing car seat until the age of two. Compelling, supportive testimony from physicians, law enforcement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Rhode Island chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Automobile Association helped to ensure successful passage of the bill. Upon enactment of this law, Rhode Island became the eighth state requiring infants and toddlers to remain in a rear-facing car seat at least until age two.
Passage of this bill helps bring Rhode Island law up to standards set by the AAP and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2011 the AAP, along with NHTSA, issued a revised policy for what constitutes best practice in child passenger safety. This policy states, “All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat (CSS) until they are two years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their CSS.” The policy change was based on extensive crash data from both the United States and abroad.
The Injury Prevention Center at Rhode Island Hospital (IPC) has been active in the field of child passenger safety for many years. Serving as the lead agency for the Rhode Island Coalition of Safe Kids Worldwide since 2008, the IPC has been the center of child passenger safety activities for the state. IPC staff run a very busy car seat fitting station where parents can have their child’s car seat installation checked by a certified child passenger safety technician and qualifying low income families are able to receive a car seat free of charge. Additionally, each year we hold approximately 40 car seat check events at varying locations throughout Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. IPC staff also conduct numerous child passenger safety trainings and presentations with different groups including healthcare workers, law enforcement, child protective services, day care centers and mother’s groups.
Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death for children.1 Properly restraining children following the best practice standards set by NHTSA and the AAP is the best way to reduce the risk of motor vehicle crash associated injury and death.2 Emergency Department physicians can help make sure that all children are travelling appropriately restrained by always asking caregivers about child passenger safety and providing resources to families that need assistance obtaining an appropriate car seat or help with the proper installation and use of their child’s car seat.