New rear-facing car seat law takes effect in Virginia on July 1

Parents: Here's what you need to know before you hit the road

ROANOKE, Va. – Starting July 1, if a child is under 2 years old, guardians in Virginia will be required to buckle them up in a rear-facing car seat.

Currently under Virginia law, once kids turn 1, parents can turn their car seats to face forward. Under the new law, children must stay rear-facing until they turn 2 or until they meet the minimum weight requirements for a front-facing seat.

Fincastle mom Hayley Baker always buckles up her 7-year-old daughter, Faith, before hitting the road.

"I don't think you can overdo car seat safety," Baker said. "The rear-facing is definitely better. I just don't think a lot of 1-year-olds have the neck support to survive a collision."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says car crash injuries are the leading cause of death for kids in the U.S.

The CDC also says, "Always buckling children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts reduces serious and fatal injuries by up to 80%."

Roanoke City police Officer Kenny Wilkerson says if you're caught breaking the new law, you could face a $50 fine. A second offense could cost up to $500.

"It could be life or death," Wilkerson said.

There are exceptions to the law if families have a medical waiver. Officers say they'll be on the lookout.

One Roanoke parent who didn't want to talk on-camera said kids are ready to face forward at 1 year old, especially if they're big for their age.

Mom of four Ashleigh Falk said you can never be too safe.

"I'd rather risk a broken leg than a broken neck, first of all," Falk said. "And second of all, they find a way to get comfortable."

For Baker, dealing with a little discomfort and fussiness is worth protecting her daughter's life.

"Obviously, I would rather her have a broken limb than not survive," Baker said.

The Roanoke City Fire Department works with Carilion Children's Hospital and the Roanoke City Police Department to offer free car seat safety checks on the third Thursday of every month at the Fire Department located at 1333 Jamison Ave. SE in Roanoke.

Certified fire departments across the state offer similar safety checks.

The Virginia Department of Health offers free car seats and booster seats for families who can't afford them.

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