(PLEASE NOTE: The Sevierville Police Department is participating in the National Child Passenger Safety Week, which takes place from September 23-29. As part of the event, SPD will conduct a child car seat check-up event on National Seat Check Saturday, September 29. Agencies across the nation will be holding child car seat events on that day. The SPD event will be at the Police Department (300 Gary Wade Blvd.) in the Municipal Complex from 10AM-2PM.)
Facing the car seat in the correct direction for the age, height, weight, and developmental level of the child is critical to the safety of child passengers.
Many children are advanced to the next seat stage before they are truly ready, which puts them at greater risk for injury in a crash. NHTSA suggests that children should ride rear-facing to the upper limits of their seats, and convertible seats with higher rear-facing weight and height limits allow many children to ride rear-facing well past the age of 2. Children are also being moved prematurely from harnessed car seats into booster seats, as well as from booster seats into adult seat belts, which puts them at greater risk for injury if the seat belt does not fit them correctly. Safekids.org says that for the best protection, keep your baby in a rear-facing car seat until 2 years old or more.
Tennessee’s child passenger restraint law states the following:
Children under one (1) year of age, or any child, weighing twenty (20) pounds or less, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system in a rear-facing position, meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards, in a rear seat, if available, or according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle manufacturer's instructions. (Note: If the child safety seat has a higher rear-facing weight rating, usually 30 or 35 pounds, it may be continued to be used in a rear-facing position so long as the child's weight permits. Check the manufacturers instructions accompanying the child safety seat for more information.)
In summary, although the Tennessee law allows children one year old and weighing more than 20 pounds to be placed in a forward-facing position, the SPD, along with NHTSA recommends that your child remain in the rear-facing position longer, if doing so would be in accordance with manufacturers instructions. You can find the exact height and weight limit on the side or back of your car seat. Kids who ride in rear-facing seats have the best protection for the head, neck and spine. It is especially important for rear-facing children to ride in a back seat away from the airbag.
For more information on Tennessee's Child Restraint laws, refer to T.C.A. 55-9-602.