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Gov. Northam signs new child seat bill into law

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RICHMOND, Va - Poppy Schmitt turned two not long ago, so until recently, her view during car trips was the back seat.  Poppy's mother, Lauren Schmitt said they waited a little while after her daughter's second birthday to make the switch to a front facing child safety seat.

"She now loves sitting forward because she can see more," Schmitt said.

Prior to having children, Schmitt said she was not fully aware that experts recommend children under the age of two ride in a car seat that faces the rear of the vehicle because research by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows children are 75% less likely to die or get seriously injured in an accident.

"Before I had kids, I didn't really know about the different laws and recommendations, so I think it is important to get the word out," Schmitt said.

Tuesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed HB 708 in law.  The bill "prohibits child restraint devices from being forward-facing until, at least, the child reaches two years of age or until the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device."  Doctors can also determine if it is impractical for child to sit in a rear facing seat because of the child's height.

"A lot of people thought that was the law. The bottom line is it wasn't. What that means there are some residents that don't know its the law, don't know it's the safest route," said. Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Springfield), who sponsored the bill.

Rear-facing seats disperse the crash force more evenly across the back of the seat and the child’s body and limit the motion of the head, reducing the potential of neck injury, according to AAA Mid Atlantic.

Governor Northam said he is glad to see trends and research have progressed since he was kid growing up on Virginia's Eastern Shore.

"My mother used to just throw my brother me in the back of the truck," Northam said.  "[A child's] head control is much better, their necks are protected if the child seat is facing toward the rear."

Before it passed both chambers of the General Assembly, Filler-Corn said some lawmakers were skeptical of the bill, arguing parents should be able to decide what is best for their children.  The bill eventually passed both chambers with support from members of both parties.

Schmitt hopes the new law helps more Virginia parents realize the safety benefits of rear facing seats.

"Let's leave it to the physicians and the people who study this for a living. If that's what they are recommending, I'm going with them," she said.

The law does not take effect until July 1, 2019, to give parents time to learn of about the policy change and adjust to it.

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