WEST ORANGE, NJ - Infants and toddlers will be soon required to ride in rear-facing car seats longer than they have in the past, according to a recently signed New Jersey law that will go into effect in Sept. Fines for violation of the law will range from $50 to $75.
The new law requires babies and toddlers to sit in rear-facing car seats until they reach the age of two years or 30 pounds. The law agrees with recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP). Previously, the requirement was one year.
Some parents prefer these stricter regulations with car seats.
Mary Salazar Toth, who moved to West Orange a month ago said, “I'm a new parent of an almost three year old and we're ERF (extended rear facing). The AAP suggests rear facing for at least two years and as close to four as possible. I was very happy to hear of the new law, but we were already doing it when we lived in Brooklyn, so nothing's really changed for us.”
"I've read online about how their necks are not developed at a young age, so if you're in an accident, it's safer to have them facing the rear," said Amanda Norek, a Chatham mother of three children ages three, almost two and four months. "I don't think a lot of people know about the new law."
“I'm all for more strict regulations with car seats,” said Allison Carney of West Orange. “I kept my son rear facing as long as possible and heard constant comments about how I should turn him around. He is four years old now, weighs 42 pounds and is 45 inches. He is still in a five-point harness and will remain in one.”
“I don't see the big rush to forward face or sit in a booster,” she added. “It's one thing that can potentially save your child's life and it shouldn't be taken lightly.
“I highly recommend going and having your seat checked for proper installation too,” said Carney. “I thought I had everything right and when I went I didn't have it installed correctly. The safer the better.”
However, Norek said that getting used to the new law it is going to take some adjustment.
"I feel like now that they've been facing forward, they're at the age where they like to look around, so it will take some time to get used to it," Norek said. "Especially now when they look around for trucks on the road. They'll know what they're missing, so turning them to backwards is going to be a change."
According to the law, once children are turned around, they must remain in five-point harness car seats until they are four years old or weigh 40 pounds. The new law also says that children must remain in booster seats until they reach the age of eight or 57 inches in height.
“I'm not against safety, but thankful my youngest is eight as he's a big boy, but not 57 inches, not sure my nine year old, who is tallest in her class, is that tall,” said Julie Schenk of West Orange. “It's been easy this summer carpooling and having them spend time with friends and relatives without a car seat concern.”
Some people, like Rosy Sanchez-LePond of West Orange and her husband are skeptical of the new law.
“My husband feels to change the laws like this is a money-making ploy,” said Sanchez-LePond. “He stated if the direction on the car seats give you the requirements and guideline why all of a sudden change it and now a police officer can stop you and weigh your child that is just ridiculous.”
However, other residents welcome the changes made by the law.
“I'm happy to see the new laws to protect our children and grandchildren,” said Lynn Katz Galatz of West Orange. “Some were not riding safely and parents had no idea about the dangers.”
West Orange Police Chief James P. Abbott said that he has read the law and is aware of it
“It is important the public is educated on not just the law but on how to properly install and secure rear-facing car seats to keep small children safe,” said Abbott.
He also said that the township plans to educate residents via social media and that enforcement of the law will involve a period of time where warnings will be issued rather than formal summonses, in an effort to inform the public of the new rules and gain voluntary compliance.