New car-seat regulations go into effect

January 3, 2019

New laws focused on children’s safety in vehicles went go into effect Tuesday.

The new regulations include rear-facing car seats for children up to 2 years old, or until they reach the height or weight limits established by the car seat manufacturer.

Children up to 8 years old are also required to ride in car or booster seats and must remain in the back seat of the car, assuming there is a rear row with a seat belt.

Further, children between the ages of 8 and 18 are required to use seat belts or booster seats.

Judy Martin, deputy director of Public Health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, said children moving from car seats to seat belts are exposed to injury risks.

“As children get older, their risk increases because they’re moved from a safety seat to a seat belt too soon or they’re allowed to ride in the front seat where an airbag could cause injury,” Martin said in a news release. “That’s why it’s so important to choose the right seat and know the law to help keep your child safe at every age and every stage.”

Violation of the new laws would be a secondary offense, which means a driver can’t be pulled over for violations of these rules, but if found to be in violation during an unrelated stop, the driver or passenger will receive a fine of $25.

Previous law required children up to 6 years old to be secured in child seats. Raising the age proved to be a popular opinion among Nebraska lawmakers — it took less than an hour to get a 36-3 vote before advancing the bill.

One of the three dissenting votes was from Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, who suggested parents be allowed to decide when a child is ready to graduate to a standard car seat belt.

“Parents need to be able to make decisions for their own children,” he said. “We cannot protect people from everything. My approach to life is you make decisions and the consequences are what they are.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, though, recommends similar guidelines to those in the new law, such as children staying in booster seats until they reach the height of 4-foot-9 and are between the ages of 8 and 12.

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