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NJ New Car Seat Law Clarifies How Long Children Must Remain in a Car Seat

On September 1, 2015, a new law governing the use of child safety car seats took effect in New Jersey. Under the new law, specific seating requirements are set out that dictate how a child must sit in a car depending on their age and weight.

The most significant change for families with small children is the requirement that children under 2-years and 30 lbs. must sit in a rear-facing child safety seat regardless of their height. Prior to this law, parents had the choice as to how to seat their children in their car, and many parents would switch to a front facing seat at 1-year. The new law requires that children under 2-years face rear even if their legs are bent or pressed up against the back of the backseat.

There are several other specific requirements included in the law, which was signed by Governor Christie in May 2015. Children age 2-4 and under 40 lbs. must sit in a front or rear-facing seat with a 5-point harness in the backseat of the vehicle. Children age 4-8 or under 57 inches must sit in a car seat or booster seat in the backseat of the vehicle. Children older than 8 or more than 57 inches tall no longer need a booster seat.

The new law does not state when a child can begin sitting in the front seat of the car, however the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children remain in the back seat of the car until age 12. For vehicles without a rear-seat, children can sit in the front with the use of a booster or car seat so long as the passenger-side airbag is turned off. If a baby must sit in the front seat, their car-seat is still required to face rear.

Prior versions of the car seat law allowed caregivers to avoid a ticket for not complying with the law so long as they were complying with the manufacturer’s guidelines. This exemption is not contained in the new law. Fines for failing to comply with the law have also been raised from $10-$25 to $50-$75.

Compliance with the new car seat law is important, not just to avoid a fine but more importantly to keep the children in your car safe from injury during an accident. If you have any questions about the new law or whether or not your current car seat is in compliance with the law, please contact one of the attorneys at Levinson Axelrod.

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