A recent news release from the US Department of Transportation lays for groundwork for this year’s Child Passenger Safety Week, which is scheduled to be held nationwide from September 23 to 29. The announcement (see link below) contains links to a variety of materials – everything from broadcast-ready public service spots for TV stations and the web to sample op-eds ready for submission to local newspapers.
Perhaps the most important materials, however, are the practical ones: flyers demonstrating the proper way to install a car seat and its accompanying harness or tether, checklists to help new parents make sure they have carried out every step of the process for securing their child, and posters illustrating the stages at which a child should move from a rear-facing child seat to a front-facing one and from there to a booster seat. One might have thought that after decades of educational campaigns all this would not be necessary. But, as the news release reminds us, car crashes remain a “leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13.”
With that in mind, it is also worth reminding parents and other caregivers that proper child seats are not just a good idea, they are the law. As outlined in ORS 811.210, Oregon law requires all children under the age of two to be “properly secured with a child safety system in a rear-facing position.” Children who are over age two but weigh less than 40 pounds may face forward provided they remain in an appropriate, state and federal-approved, child seat. Anyone weighing more than 40 pounds who is shorter than four feet nine inches must use a booster seat. Failure to comply with any of these laws is a Class D violation, subject to a fine of up to $500.
It is also worth noting that a separate section of Oregon’s legal code – ORS 815.080 – extends these responsibilities to anyone operating a car. In other words, if you are giving your friend’s kids a lift or if you are picking up extra cash by working as a ride-share driver, you are legally responsible for seeing that children (defined, in this case as anyone age 16 and under) are properly secured according to their age and weight. This is true even if it isn’t your car.
The official launch of Child Safety Week may still be more than a month away, but as a Portland lawyer who has long focused his practice on injuries to children I urge everyone to take a look at the materials in the links below, and also a few minutes to remind themselves of what both the law and good common sense require. Tremendous progress has been made over the last 50 years when it comes to keeping kids safe in cars, but so much more needs to be done.
Oregon Department of Transportation: Safety Belts & Child Seats