New Oklahoma Car Seat Law

What you need to do.

It’s one of the most terrifying moments. The sound of crunching metal, the smell of brake dust and the feeling of panic mixed with confusion. If you have ever experienced a vehicle accident, even a minor one, your mind was probably flooded with thoughts. Am I okay? Are they okay? What happened? In the midst of chaos, hopefully none of your concerns were for the safety of a child passenger.

Sadly, this isn’t the case for many of our Oklahoma neighbors. According to the Safe Kids Coalition, more than 6,000 Oklahoma children were involved in crashes in our state last year. Of those, 607 were seriously injured and 22 were killed.

Heartbreaking stories that, in some cases, may have had a different outcome had the child been in a car seat or booster seat. That’s why Representative Scott Inman (D-Del City) authored a new Oklahoma law to keep children safe when they’re on the go.

“While we are required to buckle up, we aren’t required to buckle them up in a way that would save their lives,” Inman said.

Inman’s bill was signed into law this summer and takes effect on November 1, 2015. The new law requires children to be in a rear-facing car seat until they are 2-years old. Children younger than 4 years are required to be in a forward-facing car seat, and those younger than 8-years old and less than 4’9” tall are required to be in a full car seat or booster seat.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rear-facing car seats until age 2, it’s never been the law in Oklahoma…until now.

“Rear facing for as long as possible is your child’s best bet in an accident,” explained Jenny Rollins with Tulsa’s Safe Kids Coalition. “The neck and spinal cord are still developing in young children. Rear-facing seats cradle the child through a crash and distribute the force across their back, often saving them from serious spinal injury.”

The fact is, toddlers are not just small adults; their bodies are still developing and those developmental changes make them more vulnerable. A toddler’s vertebrae are connected via cartilage rather than ossified bone. Those pieces of cartilage have the ability to stretch up to two inches. Yet only 1/4″ stretch is enough to rupture the spinal column, resulting in paralysis or death.

It’s a scary reality, but as parents it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to keep our kids safe. Even if that means forcing your 7-year-old into a booster or turning your toddler back around. The good news is that if you have a convertible car seat, it’s an easy switch from front to back. If you’ve already purchased a forward-facing seat, you’ll just need to revert back to your previous rear-facing seat until your child has aged out.

If you need help installing your car seat or just want to have it checked out, you can contact Tulsa’s Safe Kids Coalition at 918.494.8256 or on their website for a list of scheduled car-seat checks.

Tulsa’s Safe Kids Coalition says when it comes to car-seat safety, the numbers speak for themselves:

  • Booster seats have been shown to reduce the risk of serious injury by 45 percent compared to seat belts alone for children ages 4 to 8 years.
  • Children should ride in a back seat until they are at least 13 years of age.
  • Children 2 to 5 years of age using safety belts prematurely are four times more likely to suffer a serious head injury in a crash than those restrained in child safety seats or booster seats.
  • Child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by up to 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers (ages 1 to 4.)
  • 73 percent of child restraints are installed or used improperly. Infant seats have the highest percent of critical misuse.

When installed and used correctly, child safety seats and safety belts can prevent injuries and save lives. As parents, a lot of the decisions we make are unpopular. We just have to make the decision that safety comes first. Car seats aren’t about comfort, preference or popularity; they’re about saving lives. And what could be more important?

Categories: Features