For parents, nothing is more important than their child’s safety. One of the most important ways to protect them is by ensuring they are properly secured while riding in motor vehicles. New Jersey car seat laws exist to protect children from the moment they are born.
The type of restraints children need in cars changes as they grow. Here is an overview of the current car seat laws in the Garden State.
What the New Car Seat Law Says
New Jersey’s car seat law — An Act Concerning Child Passenger Restraint Systems — sets standards for children based on age, weight, and height.
Specifically, the law states:
- Children who are under age two and weigh less than 30 pounds must be in rear-facing car seats.
- Children under age four and weigh less than 40 pounds must also stay in rear-facing seats with a five-point harness. They must remain in these seats until the child’s weight or/and height surpass the car seat manufacturer’s safety instructions.
- Children ages four through seven must remain in a booster seat in the back seat of a vehicle until they reach age eight or 57 inches tall.
Once the child is older than eight or 57 inches, they can ride in the back seat with a seat belt. New Jersey law does not state when children can begin riding in the front seat. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Highway Traffic Administration recommend keeping kids under 13 in the back.
New Jersey law also requires school buses to offer “three-point” seat belts for children after a deadly bus crash in which one student and one teacher died, leaving 43 others injured. School buses are exempt from the other car seat laws.
Penalties for Violating New Jersey Car Seat Laws
Parents who fail to comply with the new laws may face fines if caught. These fines may range from $50 to $75.
Also, the law gives no exemptions to parents who claim that they did not have their child in the proper safety seat because they were following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Common Mistakes with Car Seats
Car seats must be installed properly to work the way they should. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make with car seats:
- Using an expired car seat. Parents should only use the seat for six years. After this amount of time, wear and tear can reduce their effectiveness.
- Not restraining the child tightly enough. While your child should not be uncomfortable in their car seat, failing to secure the straps loosely enough can be very dangerous and render the car seat ineffective. Pay particular attention to your child’s restraints in winter. Puffy jackets and snowsuits will make the belts too loose.
- Failing to adjust the seat as the child grows. As a child gets bigger, their car seat will need to be adjusted for comfort and security. Make sure that your child’s car seat’s arm straps fit securely.
- Letting a child sit in the front seat. While your child may beg and beg to sit in the front seat, it’s too dangerous in the event of a car accident. An airbag can kill a younger child who is riding in the front.
- Improper car seat installation. Failing to install a car seat correctly is a big mistake. If you are not sure whether your child’s car seat is installed within your vehicle correctly, seek the opinion of someone who has experience in the matter. This is especially true with rear-facing car seats, which can be trickier. The New Jersey State Police offer safety seat inspections monthly throughout the state. Click here to find the location closest to you.
In addition, parents should always replace a car seat after being involved in a crash. Even if the seat looks fine, small structural damage from the impact of the collision could compromise the seat’s integrity and endanger children
What You Should Do If Your Child Is Injured in a Car Accident
Ensuring that your child is secured appropriately when in a motor vehicle is essential from both a legal perspective and a safety one.
Unfortunately, the proper use of a car seat is not always enough to protect your child when an accident is severe. When this is the case — and your child sustains an injury as a result — you must seek legal help as soon as possible.
While you may feel as though you do not need an attorney, the truth is that a lawyer can be an invaluable resource during the car accident claims process. When your child has been injured, this is especially true.
The skilled New Jersey car accident attorneys of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., can answer all of your car accident questions, help organize your claim and negotiate for a fair compensation amount on your family’s behalf. In the aftermath of a car accident, make life a little easier on yourself by contacting us online or by phone today.
This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in November 2021.