What are Pennsylvania’s Child Car Seat Laws?
One of the most important challenges parents face is keeping children safe in vehicles. In one recent year, 663 children died and more than 121,000 were hurt in car crashes.
Child car seats clearly save lives, and failure to use them can be deadly. Approximately 35 percent of the children under 12 who died in crashes in 2015 were not properly buckled into their seats.
If you have a young child, what do you need to know about child car seat laws in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania’s Laws for Child Restraint
The primary law for child passenger safety in Pennsylvania requires that children younger than 4 are restrained in an approved safety seat if they ride anywhere in a vehicle.
Children younger than 2 must be properly buckled into a rear-facing child car seat. That requirement remains in place until children grow beyond the maximum height and weight specified by the manufacturer of the car seat.
State law also requires that children between the ages of 4 and 8 be restrained in booster seats appropriate for their height and weight, and children ages 8 through 18 must wear seat belts.
Recent Changes to the Child Car Seat Laws
In 2016, Pennsylvania’s Legislature made changes to child car seat laws that the American Academy of Pediatrics had recommended for nearly a decade.
Pennsylvania became the fourth state in the country to require that children be restrained in rear-facing child safety seats until they’re over 2 years old or until they grow bigger than the limits on height and weight for a rear-facing seat.
Prior to passage of the new law, the state required that children younger than 4 be restrained in approved child seats and that children ages 4 to 8 use appropriate booster seats.
Parents can choose between two varieties of car seats to meet the rear-facing requirement: infant car seats or convertible car seats. The law provided that in the first year, officers would verbally warn offenders. Starting in August, anyone who violates the new law will be fined $125.
Choosing a Car Seat for Your Child
How can you select the right seat for your child at every age? The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation offers some tips.
Choose a seat based on how tall your child currently is and how much he or she weighs. In addition, select a seat that fits well in your vehicle, and commit to using it every time your child rides with you.
To select an appropriate seat for your vehicle, refer to your manufacturer’s specific instructions. Review your vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine the proper way to install the seat, either using the car’s installed seat belt or the LATCH system.
LATCH — or Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children — was created to simplify the process of installing child car seats without requiring the use of seat belts. The system is used in vehicles along with convertible car seats, infant seats and forward-facing seats manufactured since September 2002. Be sure to check the height and weight limits before purchasing a seat.
Safety as Your Child Grows
Through age 2, young children should ride only in rear-facing child safety seats. In most cases, three-in-one and convertible seats have higher limits for height and weight when used facing the rear.
Between the ages of 4 and 7, your child should ride in a forward-facing seat that uses a harness up until he or she grows beyond the height or weight limit set by the seat manufacturer. After the child grows too big for the forward-facing seat, you can begin using a booster seat in the back seat of your vehicle.
Children ages 8 to 12 should ride in booster seats until they have grown enough to wear a seat belt properly. The belt should fit snugly across the child’s upper thighs and should not be placed over his or her stomach. In addition, the shoulder belt should lie flat across the chest and shoulders and should not go across the child’s face. Children at this age still are safest riding in the back seat.
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