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PA Governor Signs New Child Car Seat Law

child car seat lawUpdated, April 2022

Over the past few years, Pennsylvania has changed many of its laws pertaining to the use of child seats. In June 2016, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation requiring all children under 2 years of age to ride in rear-facing child car seats in the back seat of the vehicle.

The previous law stated only that all children under 4 years of age must be restrained in a safety seat – it did not specify rear or front-facing, and did not state that children that young must ride in the back seat.

The law had been updated again recently to match the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s newest guidelines. According to the updated law, children under the age of 8, less than 57 inches tall, or less than 80 pounds, are required to be placed in a car or booster seat as approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s standards. When a child is between the ages of 8 and 13, they do not need to ride in a car seat; however, they are required to sit in the back seat and wear a seat belt across their shoulders, chest, and upper thighs.

Those in violation of the PA car seat laws may be fined $125 per violation.

Know That Your Child is in the Right Seat

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 46% of car and booster seats (59% of car seats and 20% of booster seats) are misused in a way that could reduce their effectiveness. AAA estimates that three out of four car seats are installed incorrectly. Yet most parents believe that they are using the right seat and that they’re using it properly.

Children are the most vulnerable passengers and our most precious cargo, so it is important that parents and caregivers know how to keep them as safe as possible in the car. The best way to do this is to make sure that you are using a car seat that is:

  • Right for your child’s age and size
  • Right for your vehicle
  • Installed and used correctly, according to manufacturer instructions

PA child car seat laws

Installation of car seats can be confusing but your first step is to make sure you’re using the right seat for your child. The majority of car seats do come with certain restrictions and recommendations on how to install the seat and there may be a few methods available on how to install the seat.

Remember to take your time when installing the seat. Read the instructions and check out tutorials online to see how to install properly. Remember, installing the car seat properly is important to keep your child safe.

How Car Seats Can Protect Children

Car and booster seats are designed specifically for the size and age of the child they’re trying to protect. For example, if you have your toddler in a rear-facing seat and get into a car accident, the heavily padded walls of the seat will secure your child into the seat so they won’t be tossed about. In addition, the seat is designed to prevent the child’s head from whipping around, preventing a neck or head injury.

If your child is older, you may be more likely to forgo the car seat entirely. But that would be a mistake. In fact, car seats for older children can provide greater protection than just a seat belt. The restraints on the car seat are made specifically for your child as opposed to a seat belt, which is designed for an adult. If you get into an accident with your child using a seat belt, the child can easily slip out of the harness and get thrown about.

Know Your State’s Child Car Seat Laws

Car seat laws vary by state, so we’ve provided a breakdown of the child  car seat laws in PA, NY, and NJ:

Pennsylvania:

  • Children ages 8 until 13 must be restrained in all seating positions in the back seat in a properly adjusted and fastened safety seat belt system.
  • Children ages 4 until 8 must be securely fastened in a booster seat.
  • Children under age 4 must be securely fastened in a child passenger restraint system.
  • Children under age 2 must be securely fastened in a rear-facing child safety seat.
  • Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense.

New York:

  • All children ages 8 to 16 must wear a seat belt in all seats.
  • All children ages 4 until 8, or under 4 and over 40 lbs., must be restrained in a booster seat.
  • Children under age 4 and under 40 lbs. must be restrained in a child restraint system.
  • Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense.

New Jersey:

  • Children under age 8 and weighing less than 80 lbs. must be in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat in the rear seat, if possible.
  • Effective September 1, children under 2 and weighing less than 30 pounds must be in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system.
  • Children under 4 and weighing less than 40 pounds must be in either a rear- or rear-seat forward-facing child passenger restraint system.
  • Children under 8 and under 57 inches must be in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system or rear-seat booster seat.
  • Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense.

Child Passenger Safety by the Numbers

Car accidents are a leading cause of death for children under the age of 13, but car seats can save lives.

A total of 880 children under the age of 13 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2018. However, NHTSA found that 325 children under the age of 5 were saved by car seats in one year.

Studies show that car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers.

Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Statistics found that 82% of children under age 4 who sustained no injury during a crash where they were restrained in a car seat.

Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Statistics found that 82% of children under age 4 sustained no injury during a crash where they were restrained in a car seat.

Car Seat Defects: What Can Be Done?

Even if you have everything installed properly, sometimes the car seat fails to protect your child following an accident. Unfortunately, this can happen — manufacturers may fail to catch a defect in the car seat during either the designing phase or the production process. When this occurs, and your child becomes injured as a result, what can be done?

When a child is injured by a defective car seat, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer to recover damage and make sure no other child gets hurt by a defective product. Your first step is to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to begin the legal process as you focus on your child’s wellbeing during this time.

A lawyer will work with you to make sure you get the compensation your family deserves following an accident. These damages could include, but are not limited to:

  • Present and future medical costs
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment

As you can imagine, medical bills following a car accident can be extremely costly. And when it involves your child, these injuries may last for years, affecting their future. But speaking with an experienced attorney from Munley Law can help ease the burden, knowing that your child’s financial future is secure and they will get the medical care they need to recover from this accident.

If your child was injured by a defective car seat, now is the time to pursue a lawsuit. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Munley Law to schedule your free consultation today.

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