every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And for every over-the-top, worst-first, “If it saves one child…” law passed, there are about a million children imperiled and families discombobulated. Or so it seems from my perch. Read this note from a reader. She wrote in response to Monday’s post about the NJ Supreme Court mulling whether a parent who lets her child wait in the car even for a few minutes shall be deemed guilty of child abuse.
every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And for every over-the-top, worst-first, “If it saves one child…” law passed, there are about a million children imperiled and families discombobulated. Or so it seems from my perch. Read this note from a reader. She wrote in response to Monday’s post about the NJ Supreme Court mulling whether a parent who lets her child wait in the car even for a few minutes shall be deemed guilty of child abuse.
Dear Free-Range Kids:A little perspective (from in NJ, even). Yesterday, as I was leaving to meet my kindergartener’s school bus (because she is not allowed off the bus UNTIL THIRD GRADE if someone isn’t there to meet her), thunder rolled in and the sky opened up. No one was home, so I had to take my 2-month-old baby with me. I drove the car the two blocks to the bus stop in the interest of keeping the sleeping baby dry. When the bus rolled up, I got out of the car and walked 50 feet away so they would release my 5 year old to me.Â .The state would prefer, it seems, that I take the sleeping baby out with me, let her get soaked by the rain (and, if we’re playing this game, possibly hit by lightening), rather than what I did, which was leave her in the car with the windows cracked for the few minutes it took me to retrieve her sister.Â .Also yesterday, the NJ legislature signed into law a statute making child safety seat guidelines law. ItÂ is vaguely written (what a surprise), but here is a link explaining it:Â http://www.thelakewoodscoop.com/news/2015/05/nj-amends-states-child-passenger-restraint-system-and-booster-seat-law.htmlÂ .Â I’m reading it to say that a child has to meet both criteria (age and weight) to move out of a rear-facing seat. This would mean rear-facing until age 2, no matter what size, and then staying rear-facing until they’ve maxed out the seat capacity. The seats my kids are in are approved for rear facing up to 40 lbs, and my kindergartener is only 35 lbs right now, so at a few months shy of 6 she would — I think — still be rear-facing. The law also has them in a booster until age 8 and 80 lbs. At her current size, she’s going to be well under 80 lbs at age 8.Â .
Lenore here: The carseat laws do seem incredibly confusing, considering they are written for parents, not lawyers. But the way I read them, a child over age 2 isÂ allowed to sit forward, provided she’s in a 5-point harness. Anyway, the main issue — whether is it neglect to actually be separated from your child for a few minutes — is the one that is making me crazy. Let’s hope your Supreme Court realizes that LOVING, CAREFUL parents make decisions like yours EVERY DAY. It’s called “real life,” not “abuse.” – L
I have always found the weight part of these restrictions idiotic, especially when they are somewhat driven by the concern that children are too *short* for the seatbelt to cross their chest properly. If the problem is the child’s height, why does it go by weight?
This was made ridiculous by our kid, who was usually about 97th percentile in height and 50th in weight, meaning he was very tall and very skinny. With that combination, he literally would not have hit the 80 pound limit until he was 10 or more. When he was nearing his 11th birthday, he even once set off the airbag shut off system on the front passenger seat because he was borderline 75 pounds. By this time, he was taller than many of his teachers.
That mom is already more diligent than I would have been; I would have left the sleeping baby home when I went to meet the school bus.
These school bus rules are idiotic. The girl across the street from us had to be met at the bus stop until the end of fifth grade, despite the fact that the stop is right at the end of our cul de sac and her house is the second one down from the corner. The girl could have run from the bus stop and been home before the bus was even out of sight.
who are these laws designed to protect? Seems to me they are designed for insurance companies to deny claims based on a parent not syncing up child’s weight/height/age with the proper type of seat.
How do the police enforce this rule? Portable scales? Checking birth certificates?
How, exactly, does this help parents?
The law should focus on MANUFACTURING standards
Make safe seats and let the manufacturers do their job and advertise their safety features.
These laws are just another example of criminalizing parent behavior – especially egregious when law is not 100% clear:
“Â§ A child under the age of four years and weighing less than 40 pounds must be secured:
* in a rear facing child passenger restraint system, equipped with a five-point harness until he outgrows the height or weight limitation for rear facing imposed by the manufacturer of the child passenger restraint system, at which point he will be secured forward facing; or
* in a forward facing child passenger restraint system equipped with a five-point harness.
So…what is it? Rear or forward facing? 1st they list 40 lbs as the benchmark, then state the weight limitation is based on the specific seat employed.
Also note that the law cites age and weight (4 yrs/40 lbs) until it adds height as determined by the manufacturer. So does a tall thin child move out of the rear facing seat sooner or later than a shorter, heavier and younger child?
Hope all parents with twins have their children develop at same height and weight – at least thru the car seat years.
In Sweden only an idiot would stop rear-facing at age 2 according to most people. The norm is 4 years or until they have outgrown the seat which may very well be at age 6-8. Rearfacing might seem extreme but it is something that is supported by real science to actually save children’s life and health. I plan to rearface my daughter until at least 4 and I would even buy a new seat if she would outgrow her current one before 4.
While I love free range I do not compromise with things like car seats, seat belts, bike helmets or life vests. They legitimately increase survival and therefore they are worth the minor inconvenience they cause.
My understanding is that a child should be turned around whenever they have passed either the height or weight limitations of the seat, regardless of age. Putting age into the mix just confuses things, but an officer pulling someone over can ask a child his own age, whereas h & w are harder to obtain correctly in the field. Gotta make it easier to write those poor parents a ticket, you know. Personally, as the parent of tall skinny kids, I can’t imagine keeping a kid rear-facing as long as recommended. Mine all ended up very uncomfortable with their legs cramped up against the seat.
Car seats etc have nothing to do with free range. Free range is not risk taking – it is more akin to risk assessment.
Park across the street from home in a residential neighborhood is different from park on other side of town with major traffic routes in between
It is not that the former is necessarily safer, but the latter requires a greater degree of maturity in the child to handle the experience.
That is the essence of free range – making informed choices for your child and helping them develop the life skills necessary to succeed in life.
Elin–Car seats have no statistically verifiable improvement of safety outcomes vs. a seat belt. Freakonomics commissioned a study on this . The other statistics are all vs. an unsecured child, not a seat belt. These laws are 100% written and supported by the car seat manufacturers and moron parents with too much time and too few statistics classes.
Both rear-facing seats and airbags have caused many of the deaths of kids in hot cars. Because they increase the chance for parents to forget their kids are there.
When I did research a couple years ago, the stats indicated that the number of kids who would have been saved by being rear-facing instead of forward-facing was a total of 1 per year. Meanwhile dozens of kids may have died because of these “safety” decisions.
The laws can’t prevent people from forgetting their kids.
Car seat improvements are great, but we need to get away from this whole “black or white” view of safety. Parents need to be encouraged to think more, not less, about what is best for their own kids.
That was comparing a forward facing car seat to a seat belt only configuration. I’ve seen the Freakonomics video. However, forward in harness vs. forward in belt is not applicable to making conclusions on rear facing vs. forward facing. Look at the videos comparing forward vs. rear facing (both in seat): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKIeExpDLDA You can compare it yourself to the Freakonomics video (pay attention to the head an neck). Also consider that the speed differential in rear end collisions is much lower than in head on collisions.
@Elin, that youtube video convinced Lenore that “the rear-facing seat protects kids without changing childhood.” It convinced me too. Well mostly, for the recommendation of 2 year old it doesn’t change childhood. But by 4 it does. My daughter does complain about not being able to see what is going on (meaning what I am reacting to) She asks lots of questions. At her age I was sitting in the front seat asking similar questions, able to see and learning about road safety, and my mom’s decision making processes while driving.
Considering the number of kids that die in car accidents, vs. the stats on unsupervised time. It is really ironic that the pediatrician still hands out papers advising first and foremost no unsupervised time at all for 4 year olds. Yet in the same visit the doctor tried to talk me out of keeping her rear facing. Seriously, rear facing is much more likely to save her life than taking her out of the car seat just to pick up my dry cleaning or punch my parking validation. And yet they seem to think it is the other way around.
>>While I love free range I do not compromise with things like car seats, seat belts, bike helmets or life vests. They legitimately increase survival and therefore they are worth the minor inconvenience they cause.<<
@Elin–I just wanted to pick on "life vests" for a moment. We've actually had a fair number of debates about that here on FRK. It usually happens in the summer, when some public facility or another (usually the YMCA) passes an edict that "All kids under X age, or all kids under Y age who can't pass a swimming test, must be within arm's reach of an adult, in the shallow end, wearing a life jacket." Most people here say, "Then how does the child learn to swim?"; although we've had a few dissenters who've been in favour of the rule. However, the general consensus has been, "Life jackets don't teach a kid to swim; in fact, they can impede that goal, so no life jackets in swimming pools, yes life jackets in boats/jet skis/tubing/water skiing, and as for swimming in natural bodies of water, that's a judgement call based on depth, waves, and the child's swimming ability." So, I think it's a good idea to compromise on life vests/life jackets (we call them life jackets in Canada), because the need for a life jacket is based on swimming ability and situation, rather than simply age, height, and weight.
As for rear-facing car seats, I think the best indicator would just be common sense–as in, turn the child to face forward when his or her legs no longer comfortably fit.
@Ann in LA – Agree! My kids are nearly 8 years old. They are in the 50th percentile for height, but the 20th for weight (they are lean, strong, scrappy boys). If I followed the weight guidelines, they would be in boosters until puberty.
Worst first thinking also plays into the front/rear facing car seat discussion.
Head-on high speed crashes with kids in the car are pretty rare.
Rear-enders with kids in the car are pretty common.
Yet all of our car seat decisions are based on “what if you were in a high speed head-on collision with your kid in the car?”
Even though it is admitted that kids are less safe rear-facing if the car is rear-ended.
Never had a problem with rear facing seats, because I never put them in the back seat. Nice thing about having pickups. Kid right there in the passenger seat, rearfacing, airbag disabled. Mind you I have had people tell me that I am risking my kids life having them in my front seat of a pickup. I usually tell them that when it comes to accidents the score is usually pickup truck 1….. car 0.
Just as people have given me grief over no seatbelts in my old Pontiac. Did not come with them, and I am not putting them in. And the kids loved it on the typical Sunday drive.
My almost 15 year old son in grade 9 is still only 65 LBS, we used to joke that he would be picking up his first date in a car and still be in a booster seat but now that joke is becoming a reality. At times I somehow wonder how any of us “40 somethings” are still alive, as I never sat in a car seat as a child and was driven around in a car with 2 parents who smoked cigarette’s with the windows closed! These are not practices that I would endorse or ever do myself because we have learned better ways since then, but my point is I am alive, healthy and so are my children. I should add that from the age of 4 (I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and we started Kindergarten earlier there) I would walk several blocks to school (often across a very snowy field) on my own with the supervision of some neighbhood children in grade 4-6 every day to school, home for lunch, back to school and home again after school. I have very fond memories of climbing the snow banks, running through the field with friends, feeling capable and developing good life skills to cross the roads safely, etc., and spotting my mom at the end of our driveway waiting for me each day 🙂
I think society needs to take the time to explore their own “image of child” and sift through adult preconceptions, bias and judgements in order to consider viewing children as capable.
Elin: I disagree about rear-facing. I shocked and horrified my in-laws by turning my son to face forward as soon as he was legal to do so (1 year old in our state). Why?
(1) Because as long as he was rear-facing he hated being in the car and whined constantly. Once turned around so he could see us and the things out the windows, magically car trips became cheerful instead of misery.
(2) I’m old enough to remember sitting in those rear-facing seats people used to have in station wagons in the 70’s and 80’s and I remember vividly how very, very sick to my stomach they always made me. Why should I assume the same is not true of my infant – if not more so, given the delicacy of infant ears and stomachs generally? (For all I know, that could have been part of the reason my son always cried while rear-facing.)
I’m sorry, but to me, those are both genuine goods I’d be sacrificing to a very teeny-tiny increase of risk in certain specific accident conditions. Not every risk is worth every sacrifice to avoid; cost-benefit analysis matters. As somebody else mentioned, another cost of rear-facing laws that’s often forgotten is the huge increase in hot car death, which was virtually unheard of before car seats were turned around.
@ Christina, or in my son’s case …… beyond puberty!
I am aware of how moving rear facing kids to the backseat due to airbags have increased the hypothermia deaths.
From what data, and/or by what method, did you conclude that rear facing would only save 1 life per year? For what age ranges? Did you look at extent and severity of injuries?
When are people going to realize that making more and more things into crimes doesn’t change anything, it just makes more people criminals when, 50 years ago, they were called “decent parents”?
At this rate everyone in America will serve time in the criminal justice system at some point in their life.
The issue isn’t “should or shouldn’t parents use car seats.” The issue is should we make it a crime when they don’t, rather than determining WHY they don’t use car seats and address that (for example, they didn’t know how are when car seats should be used, the couldn’t afford a car seat, etc.). People who have the resources (knowledge, financial, etc.) to use car seats correctly will do so, those who don’t, won’t. The law is aimed at the latter group, apparently, but it doesn’t actually provide any resources to increase proper car seat use. It just creates criminals where there weren’t any before.
If the idea is the keep kids safe, making their parents criminals is not going to do that.
Where does a three-year-old put their legs when sitting rear-facing?
@SKL – rearfacing might only prevent one *death* per year, but what about the injuries? Injuries are much more common,and rearfacing helps prevent or mitigate head, neck and spinal injuries. (It would be safer for adults to be rearfacing too.)
>>Worst first thinking also plays into the front/rear facing car seat discussion.
Head-on high speed crashes with kids in the car are pretty rare.
Rear-enders with kids in the car are pretty common.
Yet all of our car seat decisions are based on â€œwhat if you were in a high speed head-on collision with your kid in the car?â€
Even though it is admitted that kids are less safe rear-facing if the car is rear-ended.
@SKL–Don't let any of the "safety experts" see that, because if they do, the next thing you know, they'll invent "car cocoons" that cover the child completely, with a hard shell, padding on the inside, and a snorkel sticking out the top for breathing. They'd have an almost 100% chance of protecting children in the case of a collision from the front, back, sides, or even from the top (let's say a car flew off an overpass and landed on top of another car with kids in their car cocoons), but they'd be much more trouble than they're worth in everyday situations, because they'd be hot, claustrophobic, and for a small child, it'd be pretty easy to forget the child was there…..so maybe they'd have to add a mailbox-style flag on the side that the parent would raise after securing their child. On the plus side, though, they'd completely eliminate bickering and whining on road trips.
Another cost of car-seat law escalation that few seem to consider is the need for families to have ever-larger cars, which is bad for both the environment and for family budgets.
When I was a kid, only infants needed carseats and only toddlers needed boosters, which meant our family fit in our station wagon until a few months after the fifth child was born. These days, with every kid housed in a giant seat (and even the boosters these days take up more space than an average adult), a family of four can hardly fit in a compact car, and indeed, most seem to feel the need for a minivan upon having even one or two kids, while larger families have no choice but giant vans.
Liz: You say “It would be safer for adults to be rear-facing too.” Exactly! But we don’t sit that way. Why? Because it would be unbearable, and in the case of our own safety, we’re able to make a sensible cost-benefit analysis. So why, as soon as we’re talking about “the children” does cost-benefit analysis go out the window?
Don’t even get me started about car seats. Did you know the safest place for an adult to ride in a car is in the center of the back seat?
So by all of these laws for seatbelts and car seats, I would have been in a rear facing seat until I was in 3rd grade and a booster seat until I was almost 15. I didn’t pass 80 pounds until I was at the end of my freshman year of high school and then grew 6 inches as well. Of course I do have my airbags shut off now because I am short enough even with the lifted electric seats that the airbag would most likely kill me than protect.
So the 79 lb, 5′ 2″ 12yr old (e.g. my own daughter) should still be in a booster?
@djimeno and @ Christina,
If there were car seats that could fit post puberty hips…. I could still be in some of them. I actually did need a boost when I learned to drive my mom’s car (at 17), just to see out. But there were no booster seats then. Today I picked a random high back, belt positioning booster, and the weight limit was so high that the only time I exceeded it was late in pregnancy!
That seat seems really excessive. If I were a kid, I would be barely over the car seat limits in most states. My nice is a good amount smaller than me, and in the smaller rear seats of my car she fits properly with no belt across the neck. So her weight, height, and age, all seemed immaterial, I’ve drive her without a booster (I may have been breaking the law, in her state, I honestly don’t know). But I am 100% confident she was as safe in my car without a booster as in her mom’s car with it.
Car seats. Oy. I think of myself as a car seat Nazi until I read stuff like this and realize I have nothing on the fanatics.
Will there be booster seats and rear-facing car seats in school buses? Or no, because that would be a hassle?
Will police be required to keep various types of seats in their trunks, in case they have to drive children who have to sit in them?
Government- making rules that the public must follow, but they do not.
The weight restrictions?
A small slim girl could be legally required to do booster entering middle school.
The horror………………..oh, the horror.
Heart of Darkness visits 21st century America. (There’s a movie in that.)
Here’s a thought: Hire some good unemployed person (vetted, abetted, brownie-pointed, anointed, authorized and sanitized)……..to ride each bus, and walk each bussed child to their own door.
My generation of bussers never got met by anybody. Ever. We every one of us survived the experience.
Interesting take on how to drive sane people crazy, though.
Just keep pumping out bad laws.
Perhaps the day will come when we raise a future generation who decide en mass……….No freaking way, under absolutely no circumstance, over my dead body – will I ever run the risk of running afoul of the 10,000 laws of idiocy. Only cure for that, only surefire way to avoid it……is to remain barren to the bone, childless as a chimp.
I wonder how many kids right now are taking notes. Thinking to themselves……..they wouldn’t want their progeny to have to go through what they go through.
As I’ve said before enough times – my childhood was no picnic. I was a wee bit of a hell-raiser (my crime career started in kindergarden) ………….though I stopped well short of lawbreaking and incarceration, punishments of one sort or another were lavished upon me in gay abandon, fast and frequent.
But the antidote was always one thing. Freedom.
Were I growing up now, I would no doubt be medicated to distraction.
And the freedom I knew then would be so non-existent I’d probably welcome the drugs of ignorance.
Harmless mischief used to be an art. I was well-read of Mark Twain (deep enough) and embraced the world view of Spanky and Our Gang…….yet pops understood it well enough and exercised proper perspective……allowing great gobs of freedom in between bouts of discipline…….the gobs of course being the salve that soothed the growing pains.
This was common. I was no social outcast among my peers.
Which darkens my brow somewhat.
The complaints of grown adults is a going concern, and their sanity concerns me large.
But driving kids nutty is just bad form. In my book, the real abuse.
Ms. Liberty totes a tablet of law in the crook of her left elbow. We gaze upon it with reverential enchantment. What it was always supposed to mean is that the nation she so graces has got fair play down to a fine art.
Someone might want to remind the lawmakers of this.
my ten year old son is very healthy, very active, average height for his age and very very skinny. He weighs 62 pounds. And fuck no, I’m not putting him in a booster. Height wise, the seatbelt fits him fine without the booster. I don’t let him sit in the front seat though because he doesn’t weigh enough to enable the airbag.
We turned him as soon as he weighed enough, about 17 months. Our car at the time was a 2 door sports car and I had a pinched nerve in my back from getting him in and out of the rear facing seat. Anyone who gave me crap was invited to pay my physical therapy bills. Shortly after turning the seat, forward facing in the middle of the back seat, my back healed.
My daughter is 12yo and BARELY 70 pounds. So how long do they expect a PRE-TEEN to sit in a booster seat? We gave that up awhile ago.
Some people’s attitudes about car seats: I won’t compromise on safety! EVER! If there is even a fraction of a percentage point in improving the odds of survival in even the most unlikely of car crash scenarios I will do it! Never mind that my three year old is nearly folded in half in his five point harness. Never mind the screaming and tears and headaches that come from rear facing. Never mind that I can’t see the child or hand them a bottle of water. Safety first!
Really. If riding in a car is so dangerous as to merit rear facing child restraint systems in to grade school and beyond, and draconian, but vaguely written laws about it, then why are we driving with children in the car at all?! My seven year old is still in a booster seat, not because I think it’s safer, but because I can get a nasty fine should a police officer not approve of my parenting desicion to forgo a car seat. He’s not safer in his booster than he would be with a simple safety belt. He’s tall enough that the belt would cross his chest properly and it’s pretty inconvenient for him to have to fish around for the buckle which all too often is buried under his sister’s booster seat when traveling with grandparents who don’t drive a mini van. Do manufactor know how hard it is to have an infant in a car seat, and two others in boosters at the same time? My family could save on gas and insurance and if we drove a four passneger car instead of a six passenger mini van. But thanks to obsessive, worat first thinking child restraint laws, our options are limited.
Ask yourselves, “Who benefits from all the fear-mongering and bad law-making?”…YOUR VARIOUS STATE LAW-MAKERS. ALL LAW-MAKERS, in all states have found a ready source of on-going fame and fortune in the anxious-parent-voter bloc. And they milk it for all it is worth. And it gets worse every day.
We are victims of fanaticism. IN MY HOME STATE OF NEW YORK, AN ENTIRELY NEW SET OF WIERD LAWS BASED ON “STRANGER DANGER” ARE BEING PROPOSED BY THE BIGGEST CROOK IN THE NY STATE SENATE, and everyone seems ready to jump on the bandwagon and continue to support him. It’s nuts. Politics as usual.
The seat belt laws aren’t about real-life kids of varied ages, heights, and weights. They about control. The control the politicians have over us, the parents and friends of kids who have a right to grow up healthy and strong. Control is about keeping the “other” weak. Who in NJ voted for that idiot law? Vote them OUT next election year. That’s what we in NY are going to do with our problem pols.
@Janet C, There is one case where I disagree that the center back seat is the safest place for adults… if the adult is supposed to be driving 😉
I have recurring nightmares where I have some how rigged up my car so it drives me, or I’m driving by remote control. That never ends well….
Of course i don’t say that as a slight to Google’s self driving cars. But my current car shouldn’t be driven from the back seat by a series of strings and levers, or some home brewed phone app.
I think the rear-facing thing has gotten out-of-control. It’s now like a crazy contest to see who can leave their child rear-facing the longest. We will soon see parents posting FB pictures of their 15 year olds rear-facing, just to prove how much more they care about their kids’ safety than the rest of us.
The most important thing, safety-wise, is being buckled into the car. Being thrown from the car is by far the most dangerous thing that can happen in an accident, and being buckled in dramatically reduces risk in a crash. (We recently had a very tragic car crash involving teens in MI. Three died, and the survivor was the only one wearing a seatbelt, from the reports I’ve seen.
But then we start getting into diminishing returns. A two-year-old child may be safer rear-facing, but they are already very, very safe in a forward-facing car seat. A seven-year-old might be safer in a booster, but they are already very, very safe being buckled in with a shoulder strap.
Maybe I could drop my kids’ risk of developing a certain form of cancer by having them, I don’t know, do 400 jumping jacks a day. If their chance of developing that cancer was 25%, and I could drop it to 12.5%, it would probably be responsible and wise to have them to the 400 jumping jacks every day. But if their chance of developing the cancer is only .25%, and it would drop to .125%, I wouldn’t necessarily be a lax or uncaring parent by not requiring 400 jumping jacks a day, because being half as likely to develop an already-very-unlikely form of cancer is not really impacting your health and safety that much.
While it’s important to mention, as we often do, that driving in a car is one of the more dangerous things a child can do, it’s also important to remember that driving in cars is still remarkably safe. Given how often children are in cars, their chances of being injured or killed in a crash are very, very small. While it’s not a bad thing to want to reduce already-small risks, I do think it’s always something we should think hard about legislating.
@JP Merzetti- I really appreciate your tongue in cheek writing that brings to light the harsh reality of where things seem to be going quite astray! You should have your own blog …. maybe you do?
@ Anna – we don’t because of historic reasons, mostly to do with admiring the scenery from trains and aesthetic reasons resulting from wind and open-topped cars. Older cars had seats facing both directions, as limos do now. As vehicles changed, safety took a (ha) backseat to convenience and design.
Most experts will agree that it’s safer to face backwards, but people prefer to face forwards, whether to reduce motion sickness or just to see where they’re going. I turned my child around at 2, because we were tired of him kicking the seat and chewing his easily-within-reach shoes, but I thought long and hard about it. He’s still in the center of the backseat, and will probably stay there for some time, because that’s the safest place in a car (especially a sedan). I’m not worried about highspeed crashes, I’m worried about being t-boned by someone running a red, and that’s the best way to protect him.
I don’t like to speak out against New Jersey, when we in New York State have so much to be ashamed of over the past 30 or so years of repressive, oppressive and regressive child protective legislation.
But remember that the puppy-in-the-parlor trick was allegedly the ploy used to lure little 7-year-old New Jersey resident Megan Kanka to her death. The original federal legislation was officially the Sexual Offender (Jacob Wetterling) Act of 1994, but the first state law, New Jersey’s was Megan’s Law.
Wikipedia has a long entry under MEGAN’S LAW. It cites a December 2008 study of the law in New Jersey which concluded the laws had no effect. “The authors felt that given the lack of demonstrated effect of the laws on sexual offenses, it’s growing costs may not be justifiable.”
So, hype, not real time effects. Politically motivated hype, spin, and mind-control. To benefit the elected officials, not the kids or parents, Laws that give a veneer of safety, but don’t do much of anything.
But did the study have an impact on public policy in New Jersey? Or in New York, which has similarly repressive Megan’s Laws? Not even a whisper of it ever saw the light of day!
Updates on Wikipedia are current.
I was 5’2 and 90 pounds when I graduated from high school. With these new standards, I would have been in a booster seat until my freshman year of high school. My home state of California now requires children remain in a booster until they are 56 inches in height. My daughter takes after me – very petite. I’m concerned that when she’s older, we will be faced with the dilemma of obeying the law at the expense of teasing and torment from her peers who have long outgrown their own car seats.
Jills, are you talking about disabling the driver’s side airbag? I always wanted to do that when I was pregnant, because it seemed more likely to me that the airbag would injure or kill my baby than save my life, but I was told that disabling a driver’s side airbag is illegal in the US.
Technically, my grandmother is still not tall enough to sit safely in front of an airbag. :-/
I could be wrong, but I read the new car seat law as not requiring anything past age 8.
It’s unclear to me how the 80 lbs fits in. The link I read says if you aren’t 8yo OR 57″ then you need a child seat. So what if you’re 8yo OR 57″ but 79 lbs? Or what if you’re 81 lbs but under 8yo / 57″? Confusing.
I turned my kid’s rear-facing seats around age two to three — all of my kids are pukers rear-facing, as it makes them motion-sick, and one of them almost choked to death on vomit at age 2 while I was alone in the van and couldn’t reach him to sweep his airway.
If I hadn’t have been able to pull over, my child certainly could have choked to death — he had no sound or air, and I had to do the Heimlich to clear his airway.I am forever thankful I had a mirror above the rear-facing seat, because I never would have known it had happened if not, and he certainly would have died.
Risk is relative, and parents need some wiggle room so they can assess actual risk for their own kids.
My 8.5yo is 48″ and about as many pounds. I stopped making her use a child seat on her 8th birthday. (She still likes to sit in one if she is in my car.) It was ridiculous last fall when I had to make my nearly-8yo kid carry a car seat to participate in a 3rd grade field trip.
If they try extending the booster law here, I don’t know what I’ll do. There has to be some sanity. To be fair, nowadays they make boosters that aren’t babyish and don’t cost much. It’s not a big deal to just keep them in the car a little longer. The trouble comes when they need to ride in some other car. Which raises the question – if it’s OK for them to not even wear seat belts on a school bus, why should they need to tote a booster if they’re going to ride in another parent’s SUV?
Out of curiosity, am I the only one who is all for rear facing as long as it works for my family; and at the same time thinks it is perfectly safe to drive your average size 7 year old girl around with just a seat belt so long as the belt isn’t at risk of crossing the neck?
And no your average 7 year old girl is no where near 4’9″ and 80lbs. More like 4 foot even and around 50 lbs.
In fact you don’t get the average kid to 4’9″ and 80lbs until about 11.
I consider myself quite nervous about vehicle safety. I tighten my youngest nephew’s car seat when I can. I keep my 4 year old rear facing, and would be happy to keep her that way until she is 6. And when 7 and 10 year old relatives got in my car I checked that the seat belts weren’t crossing, or near, their necks, and that the head rests were properly positioned. But, everyone in my family is below average. So size wise, and with the younger one age wise, I was on the wrong side of the law in their state.
How does someone as concerned with vehicle safety as me wind up on the wrong side of a car seat law?
I love a good car seat. But once the built-in belts fit a kid properly, what possible purpose could a belt positioning booster seat serve? (Aside from giving the kid a better view, and giving the manufactures a subsidy.)
Havva, you ask a good question. Why don’t they just educate parents about the WHY of “safer” restraint solutions, and let parents decide?
I understand that a booster, in addition to positioning the shoulder belt, reduces the risk to the internal organs that the lap belt can pose. It does this by 1. keeping the lap belt low and 2. providing a buffer via plastic on each side of the seat. There might be other benefits as well.
Too bad it took me many, many hours of research to find that out. Nobody will just come out and say what a booster is supposed to do for our kids.
I also can’t get a straight answer on how they decide when it’s safe to just go to a plain old seatbelt. What’s magical about 8yo, which used to be 4yo not that long ago? When my kid turns 8, what is it about her body that is statistically tough enough to take a collision in a seatbelt? How can I look at my kid and see if she is ahead of or behind the curve?
Why don’t they believe parents are smart enough to make use of pertinent information?
Someone asks, “Who are these laws designed to protect?”
I’d guess that if you follow the lobbying money, you’ll find they’re designed first and foremost to protect companies that otherwise tend to find themselves the target of lawsuits. Thus I’d bet the funding behind such child carseat laws comes from manufacturers of said carseats. That they get some bereaved mother to front ’em for the public eye, that too I don’t doubt.
I’m a nationally certified CPST (car seat tech) and I wanted to share this link with you.
It might be helpful for your readers who are trying to make heads or tails of the new law. It really IS a wonderful thing that NJ is now requiring parents to keep their kids rear-facing longer, as we now have significant evidence of just how MUCH safer it is for kids to be rear-facing instead of forward-facing before age 2.
p.s. I’m a free range parent, love your blog!
Eighty pounds, eh? I know a woman, 80 years old, who only weighs 75 pounds. Would the hazy NJ law require her to use a booster seat?
If they have rewritten the law in her state to make it rear-facing until BOTH height and weight are met, where are kids (older than one) supposed to put their legs?! To sit indian style for extended lengths of time without being able to stretch cannot be good for their legs!!
So what happens if some children are small for their age. What if they are 10 years old, but small for that age. My nephew is 10, but shorter than 57″. How does the new law apply then? Not very well thought out if you ask me. But then again, many of these rules and laws regarding children aren’t. Just a bunch of ninnies flying by the seat of their pants. Acting before thinking. Or thinking very little, then acting with haste.
Let’s face it, these laws are to generate revenue. ie. You must buy the latest and greatest car seats for children (even if your current car seat is only a couple of years old), or else you pay stiff penalties, according to that new law. If you truly want to keep kids safe, don’t put them in a car. They are much safer walking to school or the bus stop, than riding in a car. Of all their “infinite wisdom”, these people cannot comprehend that.
I’m also confused about the justification for this. Most of the hardcore “Rear-Facing Forever!!!” advocates I know keep their kids rear-facing until 4 or even 5+. None go to forward-facing when their kids turn 2. Is there any evidence that it is significantly safer to be rear-facing at 1-1/2 but not at 2-1/2?
I get why it’s uniquely safe for infants without neck control or with poor neck control to be rear-facing. And I get why rear-facing might across the board be safer than forward-facing (as others have noted, adults would also be safer rear-facing). But is there any reason why rear-facing is so much safer for kids between 12 and 24 months that it’s necessary to legislate it–but then not legislate it for kids over 24 months?
These seems to me like giving in to pressure group. For whatever reason, the car seat fanatics are strong today, especially online.
And, how will enforcement work? Will I need to carry my kids’ birth certificates with me to show their ages? Will police have a portable scale? If a person is travelling through NJ from a state where their 18 month old can legally ride forward-facing will they have to switch them to rear-facing (and perhaps purchase a new car seat that will allow the child to be rear-facing)?
“If you truly want to keep kids safe, donâ€™t put them in a car. They are much safer walking to school or the bus stop, than riding in a car.”
Where I live, we have Amish people. I’m beginning to think they have the right idea. Horses and buggies are so much simpler.
Geez. I’ve always been small (thin) and short for my age; I wasn’t 50lbs until about 4-5th grade! I was already being bullied, I sure as heck didnt need to give those little suckers any more ammunition
(As this would had it been in place then).
One of my son’s classmates weighs 84 lbs. She is graduating this year. As in, going off to college to live on her own.
A booster until she was past 80 lbs? I’m sorry, that could have been 6 months ago. God forbid she have a stressful week or two and loses a few pounds. Are we going to require boosters for small adults too?
And rear facing until 4? I decided to Google some pictures. The kids have no room for their legs. Quite often, the photo shows them with their legs propped up in awkward ways. Or their knees up in their faces. Have your knees 6 inches from your face looks neither comfortable or safe.
If it’s important to you, do it. But don’t subject the rest of us to your over-protectiveness by passing ridiculous laws.
I’m a mechanical engineer and our kids rear face until at least 2 years of age (until they max out the seat) and then remain in a 5 point harness until we feel they have the maturity and self-control to sit properly in a booster. They will be in backless boosters until they’re big and tall enough to 5-step in a seat belt alone. Virtually all of today’s convertible car seats are designed so that over 99% of kids can rear face to 2 years or longer before outgrowing the seat by height or weight so there’s really no excuse anymore for not doing it.
Our 4.5 year old is usually in a harnessed forward facing seat although has started short trips in a high back booster. She was turned forward facing at 2.5 when she outgrew the convertible seat’s rear facing limit by height. Our almost 2 year old is rear facing and probably will be for another year or more (she’s a peanut).
The most dangerous thing most of us do with young children is drive them around in a car. We have opted to address this very real risk to our kids by following AAP and NHTSA recommendations on rear facing as long as possible, then progressing to forward facing harnessed seats and a booster at appropriate age and level of maturity. It’s not helicopter parenting, it’s recognizing a very real risk and taking appropriate measures to mitigate it. It’s ironic that some of the biggest helicopter parents I know are the worst when it comes to car seat and booster use!
There are the car seat nuts out there who buy extremely expensive seats to keep kids rear facing until 4 or 5, and seem to turn rear facing the longest into some sort of mommy competition. I just don’t agree with the extended harnessing crowd. Our kids will NOT still be in harnessed seats at 7 or 8 years old as studies suggest that early school-aged children may be slightly safer in a booster versus a harnessed seat. But the statistics on extended rear facing are undeniable; having infants and toddlers rear face until at least 2 significantly reduces the chances of them being seriously hurt or killed in car crashes of all types.
I actually had no idea until reading this thread that some people keep kids rear-facing until 4 or 5. Wouldn’t wedging them in like that once their legs are long enough to hit the back of the seat (which presumably happens by 3 if not sooner) actually put them at risk of breaking their legs in a head-on collision?
People have mentioned the “statistics” on rear-facing to age 2. Please share those statistics with us. I have never found any statistics that show that the number of tots killed/hurt while forward-facing (in a properly-used car seat) is significantly different from the number killed/hurt while rear-facing. And I would like to know if we’re talking about a couple of deaths per year vs. a large number.
Ugh. My 14 year old may have hit 80 pounds by now. I understand there are objective, demonstrated safety concerns with lighter kids not being restrained, but as a parent I decided long ago to use my judgment rather than the “guidelines,” because the risk of physical harm in an accident is *definitely* outweighed by the *inevitable* harm to my 14 year old son’s emotional health that would be caused by riding around in a car seat.
I am all for free range kids but I also agree with these car seat laws. I would rather a broken leg in a crash than a broken neck (preschooler rear facing). And yes my kids have had to be in boosters until at least age 10 due to height and/ or weight. My 6.5 yo is still in a five point harness. Oh, and fyi, the booster keeps the lap belt from riding up, preventing internal injuries. It really isn’t the neck that is the big concern.
1. How many children died from heat stroke before the car seat laws?
2. If/when it comes to it, I’m going to buy my wife a pickup without rear seat, assuming I don’t get one to go mudding earlier than that.
LMS, you say ” I would rather a broken leg in a crash than a broken neck (preschooler rear facing).” But to me that would very much depend on the exact statistics. For instance, I don’t think I’d want to give my kid a 1/10 chance of a broken leg to avert a 1/10,000 chance of death. What’s the exact point at which the one risk outweighs the other? Not sure, but I’m sure there is such a point.
tz: On that question, I’m having trouble finding a single source with good stats nicely lined up, but it looks like up until 1990, hot car death was extremely rare – under 5 a year in the U.S., and then in the early 90’s (when infant seats were turned to be rear-facing) it suddenly spiked to the 30-50 per year range. So what I don’t understand is why we don’t factor those deaths in when we try to decide whether the decision “saved lives” or not. That’s 30-50 kids per year who’d be alive if it weren’t for the switch to rear-facing.
I wrote the original comment. I have no problem with being told rear facing is safer and it’s recommended for as long as possible. However, when my daughter was 14 months old she was vomiting almost every time we put her in the car. We talked to the pediatrician and even he agreed thst although she would be safer in a crash rear facing, her reality of weekly car sickness was not acceptable either. We made the very informed decision to turn her around and now she rarely gets carsick. If we run into the same problem with my youngest, we no longer have the right to decide which is the bigger risk for our child.
Lyndsay: Exactly! Sane risk assessment takes into account not just severity of risk (e.g., death) but also likelihood. Carsickness may not be life threatening (actually, it might be for an infant, as the mom mentioned whose infant used to actually vomit in the car when to young to clear its own airways) but even if it isn’t, it seems crazy to me to say it’s worth a 100% chance of motion sickness on a given car ride to avert a .00001% risk of injury or death on that same car ride. I’m so sorry the law isn’t permitting you to make that very logical decision.
Is it just me, or have car seats changed in the last few years?
Both my kids were long and by the time they were 1 (and could legally turn forward) they were already sitting with their legs perched up on the back of the back-seats or criss-crossed in front of them. Wouldn’t an older child be even MORE uncomfortable and have more issues with their legs?
On a side note:
My youngest was super thrilled when he aged out of his booster seat and could finally be a “big” kid. He was booster-seat free for almost a year, then CA changed their law and he had to go back into the booster seat for another year. He was so pissed that he wrote a letter to the governor at the time complaining that it was unfair that he had to go back into a booster seat after spending a year without one.
I guess the tall skinny kids get to snap their ankles if theyre in a crash.
I just had to add a note about rear-facing carseats and relative risk. While I know that rear-facing is safer in the case of an accident, my son screamed bloody murder for every moment of every car ride for the first year of his life. That made driving extremely distracting / stressful, and upped my chance of getting into an accident by a large margin because it was very hard to think about driving when my child was screaming at the top of his lungs. On his first birthday, I tried turning him around – it was as if I had flipped a magic switch, and there was no more screaming. I then turned him back rear-facing, and the screaming returned. I decided that, weighing risk against risk, we were all safer with him facing forward and not distracting me from my driving with his screaming.
I don’t know if the laws in my state allowed me to make that decision; I went by the wording on the side of the carseat which said not to turn around before the age of 1. But I am glad that I did, and would make the same choice again.
Hey, I just wanted to weigh in on car seats. When my oldest daughter was 9 and her little sister was 2 we were in a high speed head on collision. Knowing that car accidents are the leading cause of death for children my 2 year old was in her car seat but my then 9 year old was not.(booster seats were not legally required in my state at that time.) My 2 year old had only minor injuries, but my 9 year old had suffered life threatening injuries including traumatic brain injury and bowel injury and severing of a major artery , along with multiple broken bones. Had she been in a booster seat at 9 years old and 70 lbs her injuries would have been much less severe. She is 21 and still has difficulty from her injuries and will for the rest of her life. We donated the 2 year old’s car seat to our local Highway Patrol and they use it and pictures from our car accident in their safety education classes. I wish booster seats were required at the time of our accident. The 2 year old is now 14 and stayed in a booster seat until she was 80 lbs at 12 years old. She hated it, but she was safe. Car accidents ARE the leading cause of death in CHILDREN. Free range does not mean ignoring the REAL dangers to our children, but looking at what the dangers really are and choosing to not over react to the dangers that are exaggerated. You don’t want to be in the position of knowing if only you had put your child in a booster seat they would still be healthy. The booster seat laws are in place to save lives and prevent permanent, life altering injuries to our children. PLEASE use your car seats and booster seats for the sake of your children!
Can anyone explain the reasoning behind why weight matters? Why is my son’s classmate, who at 9 is 4 foot 10 and 80 pounds okay in just a belt, but my son, at 10, who is the same height but 20 pounds lighter, still need a booster (at least according to various laws)? He was quite uncomfortable in the booster and the belt fits him better without the booster.
Yes, here is a link to an article with more info.
Misty Henry – I call total BS. You can’t just make stuff up and expect everyone to believe you. Show us proof. Where are these so called email exchanges back and forth? With the headers also, since you can spoof a from address on an email fairly easily. Of course you can’t provide those emails because you’re fake and made them up.
Are you all freaking nuts here? You are really up in arms over car seat laws that are asking you to put your kids in a seat that is designed to protect them. And how does that have anything to do with free range. Does free range equal letting a kid die in a crash?
I’m also appalled at the argument about punishing parents who don’t abide by the car seat law–well, you know what, they should be punished because they endangered their lives. There is a reason that that toddlers shouldn’t be sitting with seatbelts instead of car seats and it’s called protection. Further, no you should freaking leave your kid in teh car for any reason. If you don’t want to wake the baby, then stay home; if you are tired of unstrapping them, then don’t do your errands. It’s called lazy parenting.
Not sure if they actually passed the law, but they were planning to require children up to age 15 (yes, FIFTEEN) to use a booster seat here, irrespective of size.
Which is utterly insane of course as at that age they’re taller than many adults not too long ago, and would likely bump their head against the car roof liner in a booster seat.
They’re also heavier than the booster seats are designed for…
My 3 year old daughter is 45 inches tall and weighs 55lbs.. She’s in the 100th percentile for height and 90th for weight for her age. She long ago outgrew a 5 point harness. It’s difficult finding things that fit her.
New Jersey is also the state with the strictest anti-nudity child labor law. While in most other states child actors can appear nude in films (in some cases only after specific permission from a judge), in N.J. no child actor may appear nude “or without normal attire.” That fanatically strict law could even be interpreted as prohibiting child actors from appearing in their underwear or shortie pajamas!
Haven’t read all the way down but the car seat thing is pretty crazy. At 15 years 8 months, Midge has just reached the height at which she should be out of a booster seat. She sits for her license in 4 months, and her friends are all trying to find her a half booster to reach the pedals :-).
With a very young looking face, too, we’re taking odds on how often the cops pull her over to check out the legality of her license.
Heaven knows what really short people do….
Lenore, some rules and regulations reminding me on fundamentalistic religiouse behaviour.
“Safety Industries” worldwide is big bussyness, and their “priests` and popes” lobbyism often is built on artificial paranoia and fear.
(Not that unusual in many relgions to control and dominate people).
We are shaking head, when saudi arabian women are not allowed to drive a car, but our own “safety and security talibans” just act similar, but more sophisticated and subtle.
Car crashes are the number one cause of death for children over age 1. Car seat use laws are needed and parents need to be educated on proper use. It’s not a manufacturing issue, we need to educate the parents that you shouldn’t flip to forward-facing when a baby turns one like so many do.
Anonymous, that link still doesn’t answer my question. In fact, that article makes it sound like height is the issue.
Furthermore, in the picture associated with the article, the child without a booster looks fine and the kid IN the booster has the lap belt across her stomach and the shoulder strap looks like it would rub against her neck.
Based on that article, my very skinny yet tall ten year old is fine without a booster.
“That fanatically strict law could even be interpreted as prohibiting child actors from appearing in their underwear or shortie pajamas!”
Burqas will be fine, of course …
Misty Henry, what is your deal? That never happened.
I’m talking about the email exchange. That never happened.
Not my website, but I’m seeing a good candidate for delete and block.
Oh look for all of you who think your kids should be risk takers to the point of possibly dying, here’s a theme park where they just might: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10934110/Worlds-most-dangerous-theme-park-reopens-in-New-Jersey.html
Yes, I beg you show us the emails. I get emails from Lenore, haha, usually giving me a friendly slap on the wrist about language, and thanking me for my insights. So I have copies of Lenore’s emails that I can compare your fictional ones to.
Now, as for your accusations and made up evidence. I have never met Lenore in person. I do consider myself a great judge of character and will defend Lenore’s character and honour against such attacks. This lady does not have it in her, it is not part of her make up, to say such things, let alone tell you to kill yourself. And I am not saying she is perfect, but I suspect with her patience, you would have to push Lenore very very far to even use the language you suggest.
Personally, if you continue such attacks, I would suggest that Lenore proceed with a lawsuit or injunction to get you to stop lying and making up such nonsense.
Michelle, at least some newer cars automatically disable front air bags on startup if insufficient weight is detected in the front passenger seat. This has the dual benefit of protecting lighter people (there are lots of adults small enough to be seriously injured by an airbag in a crash that would not have seriously injured them otherwise) and avoiding the hassle of deploying an airbag with no benefit (i.e., over an empty seat.)
You need to take a valium or something and calm down. You also need to join reality. We are not against any reasonable laws that will keep anyone safe. It is when the laws get out of hand and out of touch with reality that we do not accept or like them.
You need to remember that a lot of these safety laws and regulations are not made for the safety of anyone. They are made because a group funded by the manufacturers of the safety equipment has lobbied for the laws. When carseat companies are flipping the bill for the lobbying effort, you have to distrust their motive.
There has been the occassional group that has lobbied for seatbelts to be installed in classic cars that did not originally come equipped with them. We fought and beat them. And my kids loved going for Sunday drives without seatbelts.
And I will probably get an email from Lenore for this, but I just have to. Sorry Lenore.
Megan you are full of shit.
I agree with Warren about Misty Henry (although my Copy/Paste feature isn’t working today, so I can’t quote him). Anyway, spreading lies about Lenore is right out–I know she’d never say what Misty Henry claims she said, and to make such a claim in such a public forum is beyond wrong–it’s twisted and cruel.
I just e-mailed Lenore directly to let her know what’s going on here in case she hasn’t had time to peek in. This isn’t ordinary trolling, this is vicious stuff that needs to be shut down.
What bothers me about these laws is we are very good about stating how much safer IN A CRASH rear-facing is. But what we don’t state is how much more likely it is to BE in a crash when a child is rear-facing. By 14 months both of my children would complain bitterly (crying constantly) when being placed in a rear-facing seat and then continue to complain for the entire trip because they couldn’t see mom/dad, where they were going etc. We tried the mirrors and it helped some, but the “experts” say those aren’t safe either because they can come lose in a crash and bong the child in the head….
I know I have trouble concentrating on driving when I have 1 or 2 crying children in the back seat. But depending on the circumstances pulling over may not be a real option either. [Eg. Late for school/work, on the interstate with no safe place to pull over, etc].
I’m a lot more worried about causing an accident due to unhappy kids. Because frankly I feel unsafe driving when children are crying and I know I’ve had some near misses when they suddenly started crying in heavy traffic…
So for our family, we tried to wait as long as we could but by 18-months we gave up and turned the kids around. This has resulted in typically happier kids and less stressful driving…
To the above poster: No shame.
I meant the one pretending to be Lenore. Not Matthew.
This is what a search on this site brings up for “lemonade stand.” There’s plenty more for “babysitting.” Anyone who expects people to believe that Lenore has a problem with either of these things should have done her troll homework a little better.
Meanwhile, school buses don’t have seat belts.
Anne – yes, I do oppose laws “for my own good.” It’s not your business what I do. If you think I’d be safer doing X than Y, persuade me. No need to threaten me with fines, jail time, and death ‘for my own good.’
Also, I found out last year that there’s now something called a car seat technician – it’s a national certification requiring, at least when it was offered here, a 5 day class. It allows you to teach parents how to properly install car seats. Apparently parents are incapable of using something called ‘directions’ and, when they have trouble, it would be impossible simply to have someone else read the directions with them. How long before we make having your car seat ‘installed’ by a technician required?
Oh, cool, I didn’t know Action Park was being restored! I’ll have to get over there and check it out.
I am still waiting to see those statistics that show how many injuries and deaths would be prevented by rear-facing longer.
If they provided people with factual information that clearly shows this, lots of people would rear-face longer. Because parents are in fact capable of processing information and making a reasoned decision.
But just repeating “I guess you don’t care about your kids” is not the least bit convincing. Back it up if you want people to act on it.
Saying “statisics are convincing” without showing those statistics just sounds dishonest.
Crash tests aren’t helpful because they assume a 100% chance of a serious head-on crash occurring. If I thought a serious head-on crash was going to occur, screw child seats, I’d sell my damn car and walk.
@Matthew Schiller – Your point helps to illustrate why car seat laws are a free range issue. There are plenty of ways we could make everyone safer in cars – reduce the highway speed limit to 30 mph, make everyone wear full harnesses, etc. – but those measures are not considered reasonable. Similarly, although a child might be marginally safer rear facing until age 4 or 6 or 12 or whatever, at some point that safety benefit is outweighed by other considerations. Unduly restrictive car seat laws deprive parents of the right to decide when that happens and instead place the judgment call in the hands of legislators and the lobbyists who so often control them.
“1. How many children died from heat stroke before the car seat laws?”
Much as I sympathize with the thought raised by this question, the number of kids who die in cars from heat stroke even now is so small that I don’t think you could draw any kind of valid inference from it.
My college roommate and my great grandmother both barely cleared the 57 inch and 80 lb marks as full grown women. I wonder if they make rear facing 5 point harness seats for drivers?
Honestly, is car safety as it is currently mandated and practiced by the majority of people so horribly lacking that legislators need to spend oodles of time crafting ever more restrictive laws? Is there some huge uptick in terrible car-related death and dismemberment that I have somehow missed, or is it just an uptick in paranoid speculation about the horrible things that could happen by virtue of, you know, living a normal life?
Matthew Schiller makes a good point about screaming kids rear-facing possibly causing an accident. I know that I got rear-ended for that exact reason.
I was on the interstate and the mom behind me was trying to soothe her screaming rear-facing kid, and she neglected to notice that traffic was slowing down and she rear ended me at full speed. That accident would have never happened if the kid had been forward facing.
I think that with car seats, there are black and whites, but also areas of grey. I think the laws should only require the black and white safety standards, ie rear facing for until a minimum of x, boosters until a minimum of y, where those minimum standards are the black and white obvious safety standards. And then they can offer guidelines/recommendations for the grey area, ie there’s a small increase in safety to rear face for this much longer or have a booster for this much longer, but that is up to the parent’s judgement. Thus, parents who feel like their child is so miserable rear facing, vomiting and screaming and motion sick on every car trip, they can turn them once the minimum time frame is met, even if the guidelines suggest going a little longer. And parents whose kids are fine rear facing can do it as long as they can.
“Honestly, is car safety as it is currently mandated and practiced by the majority of people so horribly lacking that legislators need to spend oodles of time crafting ever more restrictive laws?”
This is another thing. Most parents of this generation’s kids have always practiced reasonably good car safety out of habit. Those that don’t, are already breaking laws that have been in place since long before their children were born. My oldest child is 24 — it has never been legal in her lifetime for a young child to ride without a carseat or a driver or passenger under 18 not to use a seatbelt. The only people who are not already habitually making safe choices for their kids are the ones who either don’t care about the laws, or are economically forced to be in violation of them (can’t afford a vehicle that holds all the necessary car seats or a new seat each time each child grows.)
So IMO these laws really have little effect on safety, and a large effect on criminalizing more and more forms of behavior.
For those of you keeping score, the trolls have been banished.
I got to wondering about the issue of leaving kids unattended in cars, so I decided to look up the statistics, especially for New Jersey. If they’re going to criminalize leaving kids in a car alone for even a moment, there must have a really good reason, right? Like, let’s say a sky rocketing rate of avoidable hot car deaths, maybe? Parents becoming so cavalier in endangering their kids that the authorities must do something to stop the carnage? So, I checked. The last time there was a single case of a child dying unattended in a car in New Jersey was in 2008. Prior to that, there were 6 additional cases spanning back to 2003, for a total of 7 children in 12 years. Tragic? Absolutely. Epidemic? Um, no. And in every single case, the children were left in the car for very long periods of time, entirely by accident. Each parent thought the other brought in the baby after arriving home late at night. The dad who usually didn’t have morning drop off duty forgot the sleeping infant in the car. In other words, not a single one of these extremely rare, very sad deaths, could have been avoided if this proposed law were on the books. And in the past 7 years, presumably with the increased media exposure, not a single death from leaving a child unattended in a car in New Jersey. So why the law?
For all those who are saying their kids would be in boosters till puberty or beyond, the law says in a booster if the child is “under the age of eight years and less than 57 inches in height”. That and means that both conditions must be satisfied, so if your child if over the age of eight, they do not need to be in a booster regardless of height and weight, or, if they are taller than 57 inches (a requirement I only beat by five inches), they do not need to be in a booster regardless of age. They only need to be in a booster if they are younger than eight and less than 4’9″.
I have a slightly different take on the rear-facing. I live in NZ, we can buy car seats that comply with the US, European or Australian/NZ standard. The tests are more stringent in Europe than the US, and most of all in the AUS/NZ standard. As a result we have only considered buying the safest AUS/NZ seats.
(For those interested: US seats are tested for front on colllisions, European for front and side collisions, and AUS/NZ for front, side and oblique (angled) collisions.)
Here’s the rub. AUS/NZ seats MUST have a tether strap to an anchor point. This prevents the seat twisting about and provides a second point at which the seat is secured other than the seat belt strap so the seat is more securely attached to the car and prevents the top of the seat flipping forward in a front on collision.
The problem: When rear-facing the tether strap reaches from behind baby’s head to behind the head of the car seat. It makes it awkward to get the child in and out of the seat without lifting the child over the top. Baby 5 months is already heavy at 8.5kg (around 18lbs). I have to heft him up and over the straps. I think that this may be part of the reason kids here don’t stay rear-facing as long as they should.
I can remember as a young lad of 6 or seven fighting my 8 or 9 yo sister for the right to be in the space in the window above the rear seat. (this was the later 70s/early 80s). In this position, we could watch the cars on the highway/interstate, mime the horn pull to passing truckers and basically making a nuisance of ourselves to the passing motorists (making faces, faking the finger, etc.) I slept in the front floorboard of a car from southern Georgia to DC when I was eight because the car was so loaded that my family and two of my parents couldn’t fit otherwise.
My parents probably would have lost custody of me, I sometimes wonder.
You’re right on the new car seat law- they only have to rear face till their 2nd birthday (or 30 lbs). 10 years from now this will probably be the law in most states, and most manufacturers will likely have a 2 year minimum to forward face. Dorel Juvenile Products (makers of Cosco, Safety 1st, Eddie Bauer, and Maxi Cosi seats) is already going to a 2 year minimum. This is because of a rather compelling study that showed a 500% increase in safety from 12-23 months, when rear facing.
Nicole, please share this “rather compelling study.”
Also – 500% increase in safety – what does that even mean?
Hmm, I think I might have found a brief summary of that “500%” study. That figure is only about side impact crashes. The difference for other kinds of crashes mentioned (notably frontal crashes) was far far less.
I would observe that people who would have voluntarily rear-faced past age 1 would be, on average, more likely to follow other safety recommendations when driving kids around. For example, less likely to drink alcohol, less likely to speed like an idiot, more likely to own a vehicle that reduces the effects of crash impact on the passengers. More likely to have a vehicle big enough to fit a big car seat in a rear-facing position in the middle of the back seat (which would obviously reduce the risk of a side impact crash). Who knows how much of the risk reduction is due to rear-facing vs. those other factors?
The physics of rear facing (energy spread over a greater surface area) are fairly compelling.
I’m not about to say people should “rear face as long as possible” (which is currently age 4-5 years old for the vast majority of kids, seriously a seat was just released with a 49″ and 50 lb weight limit, for under $200) but it’s very advisable to try for the 2nd birthday.
This is the study- http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/13/6/398.abstract?ijKey=94a5a0898eccc833e6b3d528d7da6b25327a54ef&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha the 500% was the average across crash scenarios. Basically, if you forward face, and are in a serious crash, it is 5 times more likely your child will be seriously injured or killed. The increase was most significant for side impact. This is likely to be for a few reasons, one being that this was real world usage that involved seats that were used improperly. If it was purely driver behavior, though, you’d expect the decrease to be across the board- and it was not, as you pointed out.
Car crashes are one of the few areas where there really is a fairly significant threat of serious injury. Preventing it is usually fairly easy, which is to buy and properly use a car seat, and once the child is old enough, a seatbelt. No bubblewrap needs used or GPS chips need implanted 😉 .
Nicole, that is the one I found via google. Not much info there, but I disagree that the 500% was across all crash types. The 500% was only for side crashes.
And that really makes no sense. So I can only believe it’s because people who rear face to 2 are also more likely to put their babies in the middle of the back seat.
I found a more detailed study of fatalities of kids 4 and under, and in it, 100% of the deaths from side crashes had the child sitting at the place of impact (i.e., the baby’s sitting space was impacted/invaded by the vehicle that hit the car). A large % of these were completely unsurvivable regardless of restraint. But if those babies had been in the middle, the result would be different in many cases.
Thing is, if you are driving an ordinary car, you can’t have a toddler-sized car seat rear facing behind any seat that someone has to sit in – driver or front seat passenger. A kid on either side in a sedan is usually going to be front-facing and usually going to be screwed in a very serious side-impact crash. The two facts are going to coincide statistically, but that does not mean the kids would have survived those side-impact crashes if they had been rear-facing at the point of impact. Correlation does not equal causation, and I think common sense speaks against causation here. At least most of the time.
So I think the data is being both interpreted and reported inaccurately. I for one am completely unconvinced.
And for the record, my kids rear faced until age 2.5, so I am not trying to justify my choices. I’m trying to push for honesty and logic when it comes to excuses to strip parents of their rights.
I will say that reading about all those fatal crashes was unpleasant, especially since a big factor is something you can’t do much about – kids sitting in window seats. I have a sedan and 2 kids. Since I love them both equally, neither of them is getting preference for the middle seat, nor does either of them want it. So I guess all I can do is pray that nobody rams into the side of my car. Thankfully it doesn’t happen so very frequently that I need to lose sleep over it.
It seems to me that the study does, in fact, show better outcome across all types of collisions, but not in each type of collision. Taking all collisions together, it shows somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5x to 2.3x better results. It fails to find better results when looking solely at head-on collisions, though, and finds much better results, in the neighborhood of 5x as cited, in side-impact crashes. So it seems not to demonstrate that rear facing is better for head-on crashes, since the CI extends below 1, but does conclude that rear facing is better overall, probably as an artifact of the mix of crashes considered and the large different it makes in side-impact crashes.
I teach statistics, not physics, and from a physics point of view, I’m baffled by that. If anything, I would have thought the opposite.
Puzzled, right, so to me, what that tells us is that people are misreading coincidence as being causation.
Rear facing correlates with placement in the middle of the back seat, regardless of age.
Side impact crashes are much less likely to hit someone in the middle of the seat, regardless of type of restraint.
It does not mean rear facing makes side impact crashes more survivable.
And also, the odd data could be because there are so few incidences to analyze.
A lot of the fatal crashes of all types were just plain impossible to survive. And quite a few deaths were due to improper use of the restraints. One issue was with kids flying out of the seat upon impact, which might have been more likely for wee RF kids in a frontal collision, especially if their harness wasn’t positioned correctly. Also some of the information gathered wasn’t entirely reliable due to the way it was recorded / reported.
The fact that we’re talking about a very small number is also a reason for not making a sweeping rule that significantly impacts some people’s quality of life.
The size of these seats and the space they take up is a real issue. Right now, my 4 foot 2 daughter who weighs 62 pounds is in a backless booster seat because she got too tall for the high back booster. In my husband’s vehicle, a small SUV, the high back booster sat her up so her and so forward that the seat impeded his view if she sat behind him, and also made it difficult for the person in the passenger side to have adequate leg room. I’m tall. Having to move my seat forward so that my knees were up against the dash was uncomfortable, and probably a safety issue for me if we were in a head on collision. Rear facing toddler seats take up so much room that if you drive a small SUV or even a sedan type car, it limits your other passengers. My mom can only drive two grandchildren at a time cause three car seats or boosters won’t fit in the backseat of her vehicle, and even if there are two seats, the space left over isn’t enough for the kid that just wears a seatbelt.
Don’t these safety tests make a lot of presumptions about the size of children (my 14 yo is 5’5″ and maybe 90 lbs, my 11 yo is 5’4″ and 95 lbs), the direction of the crash (rear-ended will torque riders in the complete opposite direction and might make front-facing safer), and are not adequately compared to just regular seat belts? This was certainly the case when the TED talk on seat belts came out.
I love safety, but like others – my children and I get terribly car sick (particularly rear-facing), and car seats wreck car upholstery, are an absolute pain in the ass to move around, and restrict who can pick up your kids.
How about data, information, and suggestions rather than laws?
“Had she been in a booster seat at 9 years old and 70 lbs her injuries would have been much less severe.”
How do you know this? Did an accident reconstructionist or mechanical engineer test this? I genuinely am curious and not saying that it is not possible. I simply hear people say things like this all the time and when questioned it is clear that their conclusion is based on absolutely nothing other than their own second guessing or comparing apples and oranges (ie the fact that the other child only had minor injuries is not determinative of what would have happened in your child’s particular seat in the car or any of the many other things that contribute to accident injuries).
I didn’t even leave my child rearseating for a year. The safest a person, adult or child, will ever be in a car is to not get into a car accident at all. Carseats are completely irrelevant unless you get into a wreck. My child screamed bloody murder from the second she was placed into a car until the second she got out. Turning her forward facing was a magic switch to stop the screaming. A distracted driver is much more likely to get into a wreck than a non-distracted driver, therefore, my particular child was safer in a car forward-facing than she ever was rear-facing.
And that is my problem with specific laws like this. We are talking about extremely small number of children affected. The vast majority of children will not be in a car accident at all between ages 0-5. Of those who are, only a very small percentage are in accidents likely to cause serious injury to anyone (ie minor rear end collisions and other “fender benders” make up the large bulk of car accidents). And in only a small percentage of those substantial enough to cause serious injury would front vs rear facing make a marked difference. Laws are made only taking into consideration a single fact – all things being equal rear-facing is safer than front-facing so all should do it – without weighing in collateral things that effect the whole. I should have the right to look at my particular situation in total and weigh the increased risks of getting into an accident with a screaming child in the car against the difference in risk between front-facing and rear-facing.
I also think there is a lot worst case scenario comparing going on here. As someone who had an accident that is highly likely to result in broken ankles for a rear-facing 4 year old (high speed rearend collision that totaled a fairly new car) but caused zero injuries to my front-facing child, I am extremely happy that she was not rear-facing. While broken ankles are minor in the grand scheme of life, they are certainly more severe than no injury whatsoever. But people tend to look at this in the abstract as broken ankles vs death and not broken ankles vs the a full banquet of possible injuries, many of which would be preferable to broken ankles.
I suggest a firm pillow for Midge. I’ve used inflated cushions too. The only booster seat I know of without arms is only 12.5 inches wide, so booster seats are a no go for me. I didn’t think of it before getting a car where the driver’s seat could be elevated, but a memory foam pillow ought to work well. Really short people (I have a relative who was a jockey) get blocks installed on the car’s pedals.
Best of luck to Midge. For what it is worth, despite regularly being mistaken for school aged (like middle school aged) I have never been pulled over. Perhaps the extra height from various means of boosting make me look more grown while driving.
@Havva – thanks for that . That makes a lot of sense, as I guess you could always slide forward a bit to reach the pedals etc. She is 148 now and hopefully going to grow a bit more, so shouldn’t need it for long.
She has a lot of coughing spasms, though, which will make driving even more ‘exciting’ for her.We’ll just have to see how it goes.
Follow the money, it explains 99% of what happens in life. Just the car seat manufacturers trolling for more business. As someone posted before, there is no statistical difference in safety of a seatbelted child vs. a carseated child, it is the totally unsecured child that faces a higher risk.
Hineata, I don’t know if they still make these, and maybe they’re not available where you are, but I remember my tiny grandmother having a wedge-shaped pillow that I think was make expressly for that purpose. Back then cars were a LOT bigger and even less accommodating for very small people than they are now.