Motor vehicle accidents, unfortunately, occur with more than 136,000 New Yorkers visiting emergency rooms each year to be treated. If children aren’t properly restrained, this increases their risk of injury in the event of a crash. New York State has established strict specifications when it comes to child safety seats and restraint systems.
State officials require all seats and restraint systems to be certified as outlined under Federal Motor Vehicles Safety Standard 213. New York State law also requires:
"Always be sure to follow the exact instructions given by manufacturers when installing and securing a child safety seat or restraint system to ensure it’s done correctly. Be sure to also check age, weight, and height recommendations as directed by federal requirements and the manufacturer. An incorrectly installed child safety seat or one that is not used for the right age or child size can be dangerous. Children should always ride in the rear seat of the vehicle." — Howard Raphaelson, New York Personal Injury Lawyer at Raphaelson & Levine
The U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention indicates an estimated 46% of car and booster seats are incorrectly used. Incorrect use decreases effectiveness. Parents or caregivers in New York who need help permanently installing a child safety seat can visit a fitting station in their county to ensure their seat is positioned safely or securely (many locations throughout the state do require an appointment to be made).
The seat you choose should fit firmly in your vehicle and each child should have a seat or restraint that is both age and size appropriate. When choosing your child safety seat, you'll want to examine your choices carefully to make certain you choose the right one for your child.
Used for infants weighing 22 pounds or less and are 25 inches or less in length. Infant seats should always face the rear of the motor vehicle, they should never be positioned facing frontward or placed in the front seat. If the passenger airbag were to inflate, this could result in a serious injury or fatality. Infant seats are commonly recognized as those that also serve as infant carriers because the seat can be removed while the base remains secured by a seat belt.
Used for infants or toddlers that weigh 40 pounds or less as an infant car seat. Infants placed in these seats should face the rear while toddlers over the age of two can face forward if they meet weight and height requirements. Always follow directives given by a seat’s manufacturer. As a child grows, this will be important to ensure a child is always properly restrained and safe. Many modern convertible car seats can safely accommodate children to approximately 60 pounds once they are old enough to be seated in the forward-facing position. These seats are meant to be stationary and not used as an infant carrier.
Children who grow too large to fit into an infant or convertible seat can graduate to a booster seat to be used in combination with a shoulder/lap belt (never use a lap belt alone with a booster). Booster seats are designed for children aged 4 to 8 years old, weigh 40 to 80 pounds, and are under 4 feet, 9 inches in height.
Ideally, these seats should be used as long as possible – before allowing a child over the age of 8 to use a regular seat belt be sure they’ve outgrown the height and weight requirements. Some children can safely use a booster seat until they reach 12 years of age. Always be sure booster seats are properly installed and secured.
Some motor vehicle manufacturers are equipped with built-in child forward-facing car seats. These are convenient but the problem is there is no set standard for weight and height limits, this will vary by the car manufacturer. Before using one of these seats, be sure the child meets height and weight recommendations as outlined in the car owner manual. Infants should never be placed in one of these seats.
Additionally, many car seats are “combo” seats that can be adjusted as a child grows (i.e. from infant carrier to booster). Check the specifications and instructions that accompany any car seat you’re considering to determine if one of these is the right decision for your child.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a child face the rear as long as possible until he or she outgrows the weight and height requirements of the seat. The organization also recommends children under the age of 13 who have graduated to using a regular lap and shoulder seat belt remain in the rear seat for the best protection. Anyone under the age of 16 must use a seat belt even when riding in the back seat of a motor vehicle.
While New York State law doesn’t prohibit a child passenger to ride in a front seat equipped with an airbag, it is not recommended by pediatricians and car safety experts. Studies have consistently shown airbags that are deployed can lead to serious or fatal injuries to babies, toddlers, and even small adults. Seating children in the rear seat is always a safer option, especially those under five feet tall. Airbags are safest for people over five feet tall when used in combination with a lap and shoulder seat belt. New York State law requires all passengers riding in the front seat of a motor vehicle to wear a seat belt.
In New York State, the penalty for violating car seat or safety belts laws is a fine of up to $50. If the violation a person under age 16 is not properly restrained in a seat or belt (according to age and size) the fine can be increased to $100, along with three driver violation points on one’s license if convicted. A driver can be pulled over by law enforcement if it is suspected a driver or passenger is not properly restrained.
The attorneys at the Raphaelson & Levine Law firm have been serving New York City and the surrounding counties since 1992. If you, or a loved one, have suffered an injury due to a faulty car seat, seat belt, or careless driver, we can help by examining your situation to determine if you have a case. Our attorneys are experts in NYS Car Seat Laws and are happy to provide you with a free consultation. Give us a call at 212-268-3222.