Keeping people safer in their daily lives is an evolving art, especially when it comes to safety in vehicles. It’s encouraging that South Carolina finally has embraced the advancements in safety measures for child passengers.
Advocates for children say the state has long been behind the curve when it comes to laws regarding child passenger safety. But a bill signed into law last week makes a number of essential changes that will make children safer and undoubtedly save lives.
The most notable change may be a provision that requires children in cars to ride in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle until the age of two. That rule matches what the American Academy of Pediatrics has been recommending for years.
Experts argue that rear-facing car seats can offer more head, neck and spine support in an accident than front-facing seats. South Carolina not only has caught up with conventional thinking with this new policy, it also has surpassed it. The state now is one of just five that require children to remain in rear-facing seats until age 2.
Another new provision requires children under age 8 or under 57 inches tall to ride in a booster seat that helps improve the performance of safety belts. And children now are not allowed to ride in the front seat until age 8, an increase of two years.
Many residents are old enough to remember when cars weren’t routinely equipped with seat belts. Shoulder harnesses came later.
Then child safety seats became more common, although many of the original ones were substandard. Child safety experts complain that many parents still install or use safety seats improperly, putting young lives at risk, but rules such as those included in the new state bill could help remedy that.
But even with improved safety devices – now including air bags in nearly all vehicles – the roads remain dangerous, especially for young children. State safety officials say an average of one child a week dies in South Carolina due to a preventable injury from a motor-vehicle accident.
That statistic should send chills down the spine of every parent. No one has yet found a way to prevent car accidents or protect children from all potential injuries.
But parents at least should avail themselves of all the available methods and devices to make their children as safe as possible when riding in a vehicle. This new laws helps ensure that parents will do that.