For good reason, child safety seat laws are on the books in 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. (Find out what your state mandates by visiting the Governors Highway Safety Association website.)
Depending on the city and state you call home, first offenders face fines anywhere from $10 to $500 for noncompliance. Some states even use a driver’s license point system to impose additional penalties.
Drivers want to avoid these fees and penalties, of course. But once someone understands the importance of child safety seats, he or she is typically far more motivated by keeping kids safe.
Child safety seats
Starting with the very first ride home from the hospital, babies are required to be in an approved child safety seat for any type motor vehicle travel. Most child seat safety laws are primary, which means the police can stop your car for a child safety seat violation alone. This is not the case with many state's seat-belt laws.
The type of car seat required for a child is determined by the child’s age, height and weight. Infants typically require rear-facing seats with a harness, which are designed to reduce the stress on a child’s fragile neck and spinal cord. It’s recommended that toddlers go in forward-facing child safety seats, which feature a harness and tether system that limits forward movement should a crash occur.
After your child has outgrown a child safety seat, but is still too young or small to use only a seat belt, it’s time for a booster seat. Because kids are not yet tall or heavy enough to be adequately protected by a seat belt, booster seats help kids meet the belt where it is. Booster seats provide lift so the shoulder belt and lap belt can prevent brain injury, internal damage and other injuries. Safety experts recommend using a booster seat until your child is about 4' 9”. With the exception of South Dakota and Florida, 48 states require booster seats for children who have outgrown their child safety seats but are still too small to use an adult seat belt.
Get tips on how to choose the right child safety seat in the next post.