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Newly Signed Bill Will Move Child Safety Seats to the Rear

September 26, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Most children who now must be buckled up in motor vehicle safety seats will have to ride in the rear, starting Jan. 1, under a bill signed Thursday by Gov. Gray Davis.

The new law, written by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), is aimed at giving young passengers extra protection, especially during crashes in which the force of activated air bags could injure or kill them.

Children to 6 years of age or weighing less than 60 pounds are required to be restrained in special safety seats, which can be installed in either the front or the back of vehicles. The new law requires that these youngsters remain restrained and travel only in the rear seat area.

The legislation (AB 1697) contains exceptions. For example, it will not apply to trucks or automobiles without rear seats or to vehicles fitted with side-facing rear jump seats.

Also exempt will be children whose restraint systems cannot be installed properly in the rear seat space and youngsters whose rear seat space is occupied by other children younger than 12.

Although the law will take effect Jan. 1, fines for violators will be delayed until 2005.

The postponement is intended to give Californians enough time to become familiar with the new requirements.

Research has found that the rear passenger space is a safer place for young children than the front seat. Pavley noted that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that restraining children in the rear seat cuts their risk of death in traffic crashes by 36%.

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