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Citing life-saving data, new bill would require kids under 2 to sit rear-facing in cars

FILE - An infant in a car seat. (Sinclair Broadcast Group)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) - Oregon House lawmakers will soon debate a bill designed to protect kids while riding in the car. House Bill 3404, if passed, would make it illegal for children to ride forward-facing in a vehicle until they are 2 years old.

Devan Harmon is 3 years old and faces front and center when driving with his dad, Leon Harmon.

"I wanted him to be more interactive with me when he was in the car. I felt kind of disconnected with the child facing the opposite way," says Harmon.

"It can be absolute misery to keep them rotated backwards. So, I want to say I would have kept them facing backwards, but I can't say for certain, because it can be really challenging for some kids," says Natalie Willes, a mother of two.

She turned her kids around at about 18 months. So did Harmon.

"They're seeing things, you know, more than just seeing the back seat, you know, you don't see much facing the other direction," Harmon says.

If a new bill passes, a child would have to remain rear-facing until the age of 2.

"Keeping them rear facing, which spreads the crash forces, protects the head and spinal cord specifically, and allows the seat to do the job by cradling," explains Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, a pediatrician and the medical director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center at Oregon Health and Science University. Hoffman is pushing for the legislation, citing studies that show that kids between the age of 1 and 2 have a more than 500 percent decreased risk of injury when sitting rear-facing compared to sitting forward-facing.

"It's physics. So, what we're really trying to do is get the law of the land to get as close to the law of physics as we can," Hoffman says.

He recognizes parents get excited about the big switch but wants them to realize it is a milestone that actually makes a child less safe.

"The idea is not to punish people, it's really to establish better practice, because a lot of people will default to the law," Hoffman says.

And that's exactly what we heard from parents we talked with, like Harmon, who says, "I'd just do whatever the law said, to be honest with you."

No word when the bill will be debated on the House floor.

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