Bill would make SC child safety seat law stricter

6-month-old Queen Woodson’s mother says she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe. (Photo: Robert Kittle/WBTW)

COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – Children in South Carolina would have to ride in child safety seats until they’re older, and would have to stay in the back seat a lot longer, under a bill that got a hearing Wednesday in a state House subcommittee. The bill would require infants to ride in rear-facing car seats until they’re 2 years old instead of 1 under the current law, and they would have to keep using forward-facing child seats or booster seats until they’re 8 instead of 6 now.

The biggest change would require children to ride in the back seat until they’re 13. Current law says they can ride in front once they turn 6.

Dr. Deborah Greenhouse, a Columbia pediatrician who’s the immediate past president of the SC chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told a House subcommittee, “Booster seat use reduces the risk of serious injury for children ages 4 to 8 by 45 percent. Remaining in the rear seat reduces the risk of injury for children less than 13 years by 40 to 70 percent. These are not opinions. These are facts.”

She says current state law is causing problems now. The American Academy of Pediatrics has doctors tell parents to use the same car seat guidelines that are in this bill. But she says some South Carolina parents have actually gotten tickets for having their children older than 1 in rear-facing child seats, since state law says they should be in rear-facing seats only until their first birthdays.

Some lawmakers don’t like the big change being proposed for requiring children to ride in the back seat, though. Rep. Walt McLeod, D-Little Mountain, told the subcommittee, “It’s kind of ludicrous to say that somebody’s got to sit in the back seat until they’re 13, and two years thereafter they’re authorized to acquire a motor vehicle driver’s license.”

But Dr. Greenhouse said, “Death rates and injury rates are decreased by 40 to 70 percent in that age group. The reason that the age was set at 13 is that the studies looked at all ages progressing upward, and what they found is that once you got above 13 the difference wasn’t there anymore. But it clearly was there until 13.”

Because of the concerns about that part of the bill, the subcommittee voted to delay action until members find out what other states are doing, and whether they base their back-seat requirement on age or height.

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