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New law requires rear-facing car seats until age 2

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Rhode Island parents are now required to use a rear-facing car seat until their child is 2 years old.

The Rhode Island General Assembly passed the bill last week, and Gov. Gina Raimondo signed it into law Thursday, effective immediately.

Supporters of the bill, including Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, say that the law will help to keep children as safe as possible during car crashes.

“It has long been known that children in rear-facing seats are much less likely to be badly hurt in an accident. This bill would institute up-to-date recommendations that are designed to protect our youngest citizens’ lives,” Shekarchi said. “Despite the longstanding recommendation by safety experts that infants’ seats face the rear, Rhode Island law has no requirement. Enacting this requirement will ensure that Rhode Island children are protected the way doctors recommend. Putting babies in the car rear-facing can save their lives.”

Ruggerio pointed out that while many parents already use rear-facing seats for their children, there was never a specific law in Rhode Island to address the issue.

"Leaving our law silent on this subject sends the wrong message about how important this is," Ruggerio said. "State law should be clear that kids under 2 need to face the rear of the vehicle for their protection.”

A study conducted in 2007 found that riding in a rear-facing car seat reduces a child's risk of death or serious injury in a crash by up to 75 percent.

The bill drew support from several organizations, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, AAA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Lifespan, and the Rhode Island State Police, who all testified in its favor during committee hearings.

Previous legislation already required that children ride in a car seat in the backseat until at least age 8, or until reaching 57 inches or 80 pounds.

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