Effective September 1, 2015, new child passenger safety laws will go into effect in New Jersey. These new laws were designed with enhanced safety in mind – specifically on improving protections for young children riding in cars. So what are these new rules?
- Every child under 2 years old and weighing less than 30 lbs. must be secured in the back seat of a vehicle in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness.
- Every child under 4 years old and weighing under 40 lbs. must be secured in the back seat of a vehicle in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness until the child grows larger than the height and weight standards set by the manufacturer.
- After a child outgrows the manufacturer’s height and weight standards, the child may begin sitting in a front facing child seat with a five-point harness.
- Every child under 8 years old and less than 57 inches in height must be secured in a rear-facing or forward-facing child seat with a five-point harness or a belt-positioning booster seat.
- Any child older than 8 years old or taller than 57 inches in height must be properly secured by a regular adult seat belt.
If your car does not have a back seat (such as a pickup truck or certain sports cars), the child must be secured as described above in the front seat. However, no child may be secured in a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an active passenger-side airbag. If you have the option to deactivate your passenger-side airbag, then you may secure your child in your front seat in a rear-facing car seat.
These new laws replace outdated and less effective seat belt laws in New Jersey that permitted child safety seats to face forward after one year, despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children stay in rear-facing seats until age two.
In the past, parents and caregivers stopped by police for child safety seat violations were able to argue they were simply following a manufacturer’s guidelines. These new rules do away with that argument. Starting September 1, if you violate the new child safety seat laws, you will be fined up to $75.
New Jersey’s new approach to child safety in cars should be applauded by parents and expecting parents. According to the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety, motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death of children over the age of six months. In light of the obvious dangers to young and small children posed by car crashes, more stringent safety laws are welcome in New Jersey.