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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.

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

Intel Free Press
Flickr -
A bill in the Oregon legislature would require children to sit in rear-facing car seats until they turn 2.

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,” Malstrom 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-to-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-three-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 Heard 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.”

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," Malstrom said. "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 would't need to switch their child back to rear-facing. As written, the 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 Republican Rep. Cedric Hayden of Roseburg, who voted in favor of the measure.

The American Academy of Pediatrics revised its guidelines for child safety seats in 2011 to recommend that child stay in rear-facing seats until at least age 2. The organization cited a 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention that showed that "children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing."