Sen. Luther Olsen: Bill Will Make Car Travel Safer for Children

Co-Authored by: Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton

Last year Bethany, a young mom from Elmwood, bought new car seats for her 1½-year-old daughter and 2½-year-old son. After meeting with a local certified car seat technician, Bethany’s rear-facing car seats were secured and she finally felt like her children were safe in her vehicle.

Two weeks later, Bethany was driving to the store on a county highway with her two kids in the back seat when her vehicle was T-boned by an inattentive driver traveling nearly 55 mph. Almost everyone who witnessed the wreckage believed no one survived, but Bethany and her two children emerged shaken but unharmed. After speaking with law enforcement, it was clear that the only reason her two children survived was because they were in rear-facing car seats.

Wisconsin’s current law on infant car seats contradicts industry best practices. It only requires that infants up to age 1 and under 20 pounds be in a rear-facing car seat. Yet the best medical research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates infants should be in a rear-facing car seat until they are 2 years old or outgrow the car seat. Infants under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to be killed or severely injured in a crash if they are riding in a rear-facing car seat. Listening to these recommendations saved Bethany’s children.

While height and weight standards were used for years, safety experts now say infant car seats should be tied to age. Children, no matter how much they weigh or how long they are, do not have the developed spines and muscle strength to protect themselves from injury or death in a forward-facing car seat when a serious accident occurs.

Wisconsin is not the only state modernizing its safety seat laws. Oklahoma and New Jersey require all infants up until 2 years to be rear-facing and the Texas legislature is currently debating similar bipartisan legislation.

This is one of the most important pieces of legislation in Wisconsin this session. Children’s lives will be saved. The confusion parents face when trying to navigate the safest car seat practices will be clarified.

Our bipartisan legislation is supported by Safe Kids Wisconsin, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, UW-Health – American Family Children’s Hospital, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, AAA Wisconsin, Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Wisconsin Medical Society, Wisconsin Child Passenger Safety Association and General Motors.

It is time our state law is updated to reflect current medical and safety guidelines. Parents across Wisconsin are trying to do the right thing and protect their children. Our legislation helps them do so.

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, and Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, are members of the Wisconsin Legislature.