PORTLAND, Ore. -- Car seat safety in Oregon is getting a big change.
Governor Kate Brown recently signed into law a new mandate that kids age two and under must stay in rear-facing car seats. That requirement previously ended when children turn one year old.
Oregon is now the sixth state to mandate rear-facing seats for kids two and under, with a max fine of $250.
"What's going to happen is they're going to be thrown forward, the arms and legs are going to go forward, head and neck forward. What's going to stop the child are the harness straps here," said Dr. Bend Hoffman, professor of pediatrics at OHSU's Doernbecher Children's Hospital as he demonstrated on a doll, what would happen to a young child in a forward facing car seat. "All sorts of horrible things can happen from paralysis to death."
Dr. Hoffman says when the seat is rear-facing, it absorbs the shock and the child's spine, head and neck stay aligned.
For almost a decade, OHSU has been telling parents about the data. "We know that kids rear-facing, between the age of one and two are over five times less likely to be injured in a crash compared to the same kids facing forward," Hoffman said.
Now Oregon law is changing and parents like Adrianna Morales are grateful. "I'm happy, I'm really happy. I think it's the best choice they made for our little ones, we need to protect them," she said.
Morales' daughter is a year-and-a-half old. The old law meant, little Yesenia could have legally been switched to facing forward, but Morales followed her doctor's orders.
"She's so tiny and I feel like if I don't leave her rear-facing and we get into an accident, it's really going to hurt her," Morales said.
Doernbecher and Legacy Randall Children's Hospital in Portland provide free car seat installations by appointment to make sure you get it right. Dr. Hoffman says making this law will really force a change.
"The law becomes sort of the 'floor' in terms of what people assume they have to do," he said.
KGW asked several police and sheriff's departments in the area how much they enforce car seats and when they pull people over. Most said they do pay attention to which way car seats are facing and how big kids are. Some won't pull you over just for that, but if you get caught doing something else, it could be a secondary violation. Portland Police said for them, it's more of a way to educate parents and provide a warning, before you'd get a $250 ticket.
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