Stronger child safety seat bills moving at SC Statehouse

COLUMBIA, SC—South Carolina’s child safety seat law would be strengthened under identical bills passed in House and Senate subcommittees Wednesday morning.

The bills would require children to ride in rear-facing safety seats until age two. Current law requires it until a child is one. Children would have to be in a safety seat or at least a booster seat until age eight or they’re at least 57 inches tall. Now, they’re required to be in a safety seat or booster until they’re six.

Pediatrician Dr. Debbie Greenhouse told a Senate Transportation subcommittee that South Carolina’s child passenger law hasn’t been changed since 1983, so it needs to be updated to follow experts’ recommendations. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Highway Traffic Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend children ride in rear-facing seats until age two and in child safety seats until age eight.

“A child between one and two years of age who is rear-facing in their car seat is 500 percent less likely to be injured or killed in a car accident,” she told senators. “I’ve worked with families where children have died in car accidents because they weren’t properly restrained. I had a patient in the intensive care unit for weeks with fractures, a halo on her head, bolts in her neck because she wasn’t properly restrained. I have a young patient now, a six-year-old little boy, who will be paralyzed for life because he wasn’t properly restrained.”

She says even though the experts recommend children ride in a rear-facing safety seat until age two, South Carolina law actually says that’s illegal and a driver could get a ticket for following the experts’ safety recommendations for their children.

That was shocking news to Columbia driver Rachel Bruce, who kept her son in a rear-facing safety seat until age two. “If I feel that it’s safer to keep my son in that other car seat and I could have gotten a ticket for that, that’s kinda crazy a little bit,” she says.

She says she’s wholeheartedly in favor of the bills.

Both bills now go to full committees.

Lawmakers tried to pass similar bills last year but they failed. Those bills also made it illegal for children to ride in the front seat of a vehicle until age 13 and that’s what caused the opposition, supporters say. That part has been taken out of these bills.