Do you remember car trips as a kid? Mom, Dad and kids piled into the car, buckled up, and off you went. This was before the days of portable DVD players, handheld video games and car seat laws of course. In my family the rules were: find something to keep yourself occupied, no fighting with your sister, and wear your seat belt. That last rule was a good one, but my how times have changed.
We don’t just jump in the car and go anymore. Each child has to be properly restrained in an age/weight appropriate seat. You also have to make sure it’s installed correctly which is a process in itself (maybe a new blog post about this next week!) Don’t get me wrong, I will happily continue to do all this work if it means keeping my child safe.But sometimes it can be kinda tricky to figure out what is actually safe. For example, did you know each state has its own laws regarding child restraint systems? That’s right, what is legal in your home state may be illegal when you cross the border. You can visit www.carseatlaws.com to view the current laws in your home state, as well as those in states you may be planning to visit.
To complicate matters even more, the individual state laws often fall short of the recommended national standards put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP says:
Always use a car safety seat for infants and young children. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car safety seat manufacturer. Once your child has outgrown the rear-facing height or weight limit, she should ride in a forward-facing car safety seat.
Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania all require children under the age of 8 to be restrained in a proper seat, although definition of proper varies by state. Only Pennsylvania has a law requiring infants to be rear facing, although even their law falls short of the AAP recommended guidelines.
So which law should you follow when traveling? Well, if you follow the AAP guidelines you will always be within the law. Not to mention you will be following the experts advice on how to make your children as safe as absolutely possible. And that trumps the law to me every time.