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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Rear-facing Until Two? Oregon Lawmakers Consider Change To Car Seat Law

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Intel Free Press
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Flickr - tinyurl.com/jp86yvt
A bill in the Oregon legislature would require children to sit in rear-facing car seats until they turn two.

Kids in Oregon would have to sit in rear-facing car seats until they turn two under a bill being considered by state lawmakers. Current law only requires that until an infant turns one.

Advocates for changing the law testified to a legislative panel Tuesday. Benjamin Hoffman, a pediatrician at Oregon Health & Science University, said rear-facing seats spread the impact of a collision across a wider area of a child's body.

"The point of this law is not to punish families, but to help establish new norms for behavior,” Hoffman said. “We know that while the law of the land can change, the laws of physics never do. And we need to be conscious of that to be able to protect kids in the greatest possible way."

Four states, including California, currently require children to sit rear-facing until they turn two.

The measure appeared to have broad support among members of the House Committee on Early Childhood and Family Supports. Its chief sponsor is freshman Democratic Rep. Sheri Malstrom of Beaverton, who sits on the panel.

"This is something that's been near and dear to my heart for many years," she said.

Republican Rep. Cedric Hayden of Roseburg said he supports the idea, but that he's worried that if the bill is approved, parents might end up getting tickets if they don't know about the changes to the car seat law.

"We need our parents the opportunity to figure it out without being threatened with a ticket," Hayden said. He suggested a 12-month period after the law would take effect in which drivers receive a warning instead of a ticket.

Malstrom said she would be open to that idea. So did Kevin Campbell, a lobbyist for Oregon Associations Chiefs of Police.

"That isn't a problem in my mind at all," Campbell said. "I think likely officers today are not as concerned about issuing tickets on this. It really is about public safety."