MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Parents need to know there are new child safety seat restraint laws are now in effect in South Carolina.
Gov. Henry McMaster signed the law last week. It is so new that most law enforcement officers in the Palmetto State reportedly don't know about it, let alone parents.
However, the bill makes way for new changes to the weight and position of a child required to be in a passenger restraint system.
Chris Richardson, a certified child passenger safety technician, conducts car seat safety checks and educates parents about proper child car seat safety.
She said the biggest thing parents should know is the booster and rear-facing car seat changes.
For the latter, Richardson said children need to sit rear-facing until the age of 2.
"So most convertible car seats can be rear- acing or forward-facing, so in that rear-facing mode, whether the max weight of the child is 40 pounds or 50 pounds," she said. "Whatever it is, the child should be there until the maximum weight unless or they are 2 years old."
Richardson said the booster seat requirement have also changed.
"The booster seat law changed to where they need to be in a booster seat until they are 8 years old, unless they are 57 inches tall," Richardson said.
Under the bill, the following would also be required:
1) An infant or child under 2 years of age must be properly secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system in a rear passenger seat of the vehicle until the child exceeds the height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer of the child passenger restraint system being used.
(2) A child at least 2 years of age or a child under 2 years of age who has outgrown his rear-facing child passenger restraint system must be secured in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system with a harness in a rear-passenger seat of the vehicle until the child exceeds the highest height or weight requirements of the forward-facing child passenger restraint system.
(3) A child at least 4 years of age who has outgrown his forward-facing child passenger restraint system must be secured by a belt-positioning booster seat in a rear seat of the vehicle until he can meet the height and fit requirements for an adult safety seat belt as described in item (4). The belt-positioning booster seat must be used with both lap and shoulder belts. A booster seat must not be used with a lap belt alone.
(4) A child at least 8 years of age and at least 57 inches tall may be restrained by an adult safety seat belt if the child can be secured properly by an adult safety seat belt. A child is properly secured by an adult safety seat belt if:
(a) the lap belt fits across the child's thighs and hips and not across the abdomen;
(b) the shoulder belt crosses the center of the child's chest and not the neck; and
(c) the child is able to sit with his back straight against the vehicle seat back cushion with his knees bent over the vehicle's seat edge without slouching.
(5) For medical reasons that are substantiated with written documentation from the child's physician, advanced nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, a child who is unable to be transported in a standard child passenger safety restraint system may be transported in a standard child passenger safety restraint system designed for his medical needs.
The law also states now that if a motor vehicle doesn't have a rear passenger seat, or it is occupied by children under 8 years of age, a child 8 years and under can ride in the front seat of the vehicle if they are secured properly in the right child passenger seat for their size, age, weight.
Richardson said the recommendations are much safer and update as there are more drivers on the highways. She added most of the recommendations are requirements from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Previously, the state law required a child to be at least 1 year old and 21 pounds in weight to be in a forward-facing child seat.
"They dropped the weight, now it's just age," said Richardson.
Under the old law, a child could ride in a booster seat until the age of 6.
Richardson said there were problems with children not being tall enough for the seat belts to properly fit them. She added the laws specifically address how and where a seat belt should cross a child's body to ensure safety.
"If they are in an accident and they have a forward motion, that seat belt on their abdomen can definitely sever their internal organs versus being on their lap in the correct position," Richardson said.
Richardson said often times she hears parents complain that there is not enough room for their child in the rear-facing car seat position, but she disagrees.
"There is definitely room there. You'd rather your child sit criss-cross applesauce in their car seat rear-facing instead of having a head injury forward-facing," she said.
Richardson added that studies have shown that the spinal column isn't fully fused together until they are closer to the age of 2, and sometimes a little bit older.
"If you watch a crash test of them rear-facing, they don't still have that forward head movement the same when the child is rear-facing, so it's still to protect their head and neck," she said.
To take a look at the new SC law, click here.
For those who would like to have their child's safety seat inspected by a professional to make sure it is installed properly, they can stop by the Kangaroo Pouch at 38th Avenue North and North Kings Highway, or check with a nearby Myrtle Beach or Horry County fire station. All are done free of cost.