For parents, the safety of their children is surely one of the most important things — if not the most important thing — in life. One way to protect children and keep them safe is to ensure that they are properly secured while riding in motor vehicles, which can be essential in the event that a car accident occurs.
In fact, Forbes reports that car accidents are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 14. If you are a parent living in New Jersey, our state’s car seat laws are no doubt very important to you.
With a new car seat law recently going into effect, here is an overview of what you need to know in order to be in compliance with the law, and protect your children while driving.
Old New Jersey Car Seat Laws
The old law in New Jersey — which had not been updated in more than 30 years, according to an article published in Patch.com quoting New Jersey Senator Jim Beach — required all children to ride in the back seat of a vehicle in a child safety seat or booster seat if the child weighed less than 80 pounds and was under age eight. Children who were under age eight but weighed more than 80 pounds and children ages eight through 18 were required to wear only a standard safety belt.
Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt told reporters from NJ.com that new recommendations for protecting children in motor vehicles make sense in light of how rapidly motor vehicle technology is changing.
“Incorporating the latest recommendations will help ensure that we’re doing all we can to protect young children in automobiles,” she told NJ.com.
What the New Car Seat Law Says
According to Sen. Beach, the old laws were “antiquated” and “vague.” The new law — An Act Concerning Child Passenger Restraint Systems — sets standards for children based on age, weight and height.
Specifically, the law — which went into effect on September 1, 2015 — requires:
- Children who are under age two and weigh less than 30 pounds must be in rear-facing car seats.
- Children who are under age four and weigh less than 40 pounds must also stay in rear-facing seats until the child’s weight or/and height surpass that which is recommended by the car seat’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 until they are 57 inches tall.
According to NJ.com, the law does not specify at what point a child over the age of eight can make the transition from sitting in the back seat to the front seat.
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, which is more than $40 more than the previous fine for a car seat violation in the state.
Also, the new law will no longer give exemption to parents who claim that they did not have their child in the property safety seat because they were following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Common Mistakes with Car Seats
Not only should you make sure that you are in compliance with the new law, but you should also make sure that car seat installation is done properly and that you avoid common mistakes with car seats.
Some of these common mistakes with car seats, as summarized by an article in NJ.com, include:
- Using an expired car seat. The seats should be used for only six years. After this amount of time, wear and tear can reduce car seats’ effectiveness.
- Not restraining your child tightly enough. While your child should not be uncomfortable in his or her car seat, failing to secure the straps loosely enough can be very dangerous, and render the car seat ineffective.
- Failing to adjust the seat as your child grows. As your child gets bigger, his or her 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, letting them sit up front could be injurious in the event that a car accident occurs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children remain in the backseat until age 12. An airbag can kill a younger child who is riding in the front.
- Improper car seat installation. Failing to install a car seat properly 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 a bit trickier.
What You Should Do If Your Child Is Injured in a Car Accident
Making sure that your child is properly secured every time he or she is in a motor vehicle is important 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 — it is important that you seek legal help as soon as possible.
While you may feel as though you do not need an attorney, the truth is that an attorney 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 you to 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.