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Pennsylvania Enacts Rear-Facing Requirement for Children Younger Than Age 2 Traveling in Vehicles

August 12, 2016

Pennsylvania's Child Passenger Safety Law was enhanced when Senate Bill 1152 was signed into law by Governor Wolf on June 13th. The law requires children younger than age two to be secured in a car seat facing the rear of the vehicle until age two, until the child outgrows the maximum weight and height limits designated by the car seat manufacturer. The law takes effect on August 12th.  For one year after the law takes effect, law enforcement will issue verbal warnings to drivers in violation of the rear-facing requirement.

§ 4581. Restraint systems
(a) Occupant protection.--
(1) (i) Except as provided under subparagraph (ii), any person who is operating a passenger car, Class I truck, Class II truck, classic motor vehicle, antique motor
vehicle or motor home and who transports a child under four years of age anywhere in the motor vehicle, including the cargo area, shall fasten such child securely in a
child passenger restraint system, as provided in subsection (d).
(1) (ii) Any person who is operating a passenger car, Class I truck, Class II truck, classic motor vehicle, antique motor vehicle or motor home and who transports a child under two year s of age anywhere in the motor vehicle shall fasten such child securely in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system, to be used until the child outgrows the maximum weight and height limits designated by the manufacturer, as provided in subsection (d).
(iii) This paragraph shall apply to all persons while they are operators of motor vehicles where a seating position is available which is equipped with a seat safety belt or other means to secure the systems or where the seating position was originally equipped with seat safety belts.
Section 3. Notwithstanding the provisions of 75 Pa.C.S. § 4581(b), a law enforcement official authorized to issue citations for a violation of 75 Pa.C.S. § 4581(a)(1)(ii) shall, during the first year following the effective date of this section, only issue verbal warnings to individuals who are in violation of 75 Pa.C.S. § 4581(a)(1)(ii).
Section 4. This act shall take effect in 60 days.

Core Message:

  • All drivers are responsible for securing children in the appropriate child restraint system.
  • All children from birth up to age 4 must be secured in an approved child passenger restraint system anywhere in the vehicle.
  • A child younger than two years of age shall be secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system, to be used until the child outgrows the maximum weight and height limits designated by the car seat manufacturer. (Takes effect on August 12, 2016)
  • Violators are subject to a fine of $75.00, plus Court Costs, $45.00 Surcharge, $10.00 EMS, and $10.00 Administrative Costs. Total cost: $140.00 + Court Costs.
  • During the first year after the August 12, 2016, only verbal warnings will be issued to individuals in violation of the rear-facing requirement of the law.

Talking Points:

  • Effective August 12, 2016, children younger than age 2 shall be secured in a rear-facing car seat, until the child exceeds the maximum weight and / or height limits designated by the manufacturer of the car seat.
  • Children younger than age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing.
  • Children, ages 12 to 23 months, were over five times as likely to be injured when forward-facing compared to children of the same age secured rear-facing.
  • A rear-facing car seat supports the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash and distributes the crash force over the entire body.
  • Children, up to age 2, placed in forward-facing child safety seats are 1.8 times more likely to be seriously injured than those secured in a rear-facing child safety seat.
  • Twenty-one percent (21%) of the children in the U.S., who are less than one year of age or 20 pounds, are incorrectly seated forward-facing.

NHTSA Recommendations for Rear-Facing:

  • Children under the age of 1 should always ride on a REAR-FACING car seat. A rear-facing car seat is the best seat for a young child to use. It has a harness and in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child's fragile neck and spinal cord.
  • There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
  • Keep your 1 to 3 year old children in a REAR-FACING car seat for as long as possible. It's the best way to keep them safe. They should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer.
  • Once outgrown the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a FORWARD-FACING car seat with a harness. A forward-facing car seat has a harness and tether that limits the child's forward movement during a crash
  • Follow your car seat manufacturer's instructions and your vehicle owner's manual on how to install.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines:

  • All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat's manufacturer.
  • All children should be restrained in the rear seat of the vehicle.

Summary of the Child Passenger Safety Law can be downloaded below.