Last year, Governor Ralph Northam signed HB 708 into law.
The law states that all children under the age of two must remain in a rear-facing child seat at all times. As of July 1, 2019, that law went into effect. Parents that do not comply with the law are not only placing their child in danger, but will also face penalties from law enforcement.
One exception to this is that a child can move to a front-facing seat when they reach the maximum weight limit of the seat, although there are others, as well. That weight limit can be found in the seat’s instruction manual, and they do vary between manufacturers.
“The stats have been out for a while now that show the smallest children are safer when they face the back of the car,” says John M. Cooper of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers. “So, this law makes a lot of sense. Children really are our most precious cargo, and we must do everything we can to ensure they are safe while traveling with them.”
Children, may also face the front of a vehicle before the age of two if a doctor has deemed a rear-facing seat unsafe due to a child’s size, medical condition, or physical unfitness. When this is the case, parents must carry a signed note from a doctor in their vehicle at all times.
The new law changes the old one, which only stated children under the age of eight must sit in a child-restraining seat at all times. However, the penalties have remained the same. Those caught in violation of the law will face a $50 fine for a first offense. Subsequent offenses carry a $500 fine, although those offenses must occur on a different day, allowing parents time to purchase a proper seat.
With the new law, Virginia joins nine other states that have already implemented similar laws that hope to keep very young children safe in the event of a car accident. Those states include California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.