In the state of Kentucky, any child 40 inches or less in height must be secured properly in a car seat in every moving vehicle. This includes rear-facing and front-facing car seats; plus, once the child is between 40 and 57 inches in height and seven years of age or younger, he or she can be placed in a booster seat of some type. At one time, children had to be 50 inches in height (4’2”) in order to switch to a standard seatbelt but that was changed in 2015 to 57 inches, or 4’9”, in height.
The Kentucky car seat laws provide no preferences for rear- or front-facing car seats nor for where the children can sit once they’re inside of the vehicle. If you’re caught with a child in your vehicle who isn’t sitting in a standard car seat but should be, the fine is roughly $50. The fine for a booster seat violation is around $30.
Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
Also known as infant-only seats, rear-facing car seats are recommended for very young babies in Kentucky because they better protect the child’s head, neck, and back in the event of a crash. It also reduces stress in the neck and spinal cord areas because it moves with the child instead of against it. Rear-facing car seats are best for numerous reasons and they are recommended at least until the baby reaches one year of age, 20 pounds, or 26 inches in height.
You can use a car seat that only faces the rear or a convertible seat that can be switched from rear-facing to front-facing as long as you keep the seat facing the rear of the vehicle. You can also stick to the recommendations made by the car seat’s manufacturer, which usually recommend keeping the child in a rear-facing car seat for at least the first year of life.
Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
Front-facing car seats are recommended for older infants and toddlers. You can choose either a convertible car seat or one that is specifically made for older babies and only faces the front of the vehicle. Children should remain in this type of car seat until around the age of four or whenever recommended by the manufacturer. You should also have one that uses a five-point harness system to make certain that the child is as safe as possible.
Laws for Booster Seats
Once a child reaches the age of four or gets to 40 pounds, a booster seat can be used. Booster seats come in two main types. One is the full-back booster seat, which should be used if your vehicle has no proper headrests because it protects the head and neck areas in case of an accident. You can also choose a backless booster seat but only if your vehicle has headrests that are sturdy and work correctly.
You should also remember that a lap and shoulder belt — not a lap belt only — should be used to secure the booster seat. The shoulder belt needs to fit snugly across the child’s torso area and the lap belt has to fit over the thigh area, not the abdomen. Children in booster seats also need to have feet that touch the floor and the maturity to sit in this position for the entire ride. Otherwise, it is advisable to go back to using a front-facing car seat so the child is safe while riding.
Height and Weight Requirements
In the Kentucky car seat laws, there are some height and weight requirements for children of all ages and they are broken down as follows:
- Birth to 1 year of age (or 26 inches or 20 pounds): rear-facing car seat, either standard or convertible
- Ages 1-4 (or 40 pounds): front-facing car seat or convertible car seat
- Ages 4-7 (or 40 pounds or 40 to 50 inches tall): booster seat, either backless or full-back
- Ages 7 and up (or at least 57 inches tall): standard seatbelts
If the recommendations for height and weight in your car seat’s owner’s manual differ from the above requirements, it is safe to adhere to those guidelines instead. All car seats are made differently so sticking to the guidelines made by their manufacturers will always keep your child safe while in a moving vehicle.
Laws for Seatbelts
In the state of Kentucky, children who have reached seven years of age or a height of 57 inches (4’9”) are allowed to wear a standard seatbelt — again, the kind with both lap and shoulder restraints — while in a moving vehicle. If a child in your vehicle is not wearing the proper restraints, you can receive a fine of up to $50; however, the state can waive the fine if you go out and purchase the right type of car or booster seat afterwards.
Kentucky House Bill (HB) 315 was signed by the governor in March of 2015. It states that as of this date, children must be in a booster seat if they are between 40 and 57 inches in height and less than nine years of age. If a child is over 57 inches (4’9”) in height, a booster seat is no longer required. Kentucky is also a primary seatbelt law state, which means the authorities can stop you and give you a fine for simply not wearing a seatbelt without any other violations present.
In the state of Kentucky, the driver and front-seat passenger are required to wear seatbelts any time that the vehicle is in motion. In the back seat, all children must be in the proper restraint system, whether a car seat, booster seat, or standard seatbelt. There are exceptions to this rule but most of them require a written statement from a physician in order to be applicable.
In addition, a few vehicles are exempt from the seatbelt legislation but they include only vehicles such as taxicabs, some farm vehicles, postal vehicles, and a few others. The state of Kentucky has had several bills passed in recent years to update the car seat and seatbelt laws, all of which are aimed at keeping residents both young and old a lot safer.