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The Maine car seat laws were revised in 2007, and the state now imposes fines when any driver or passenger of a moving vehicle isn’t wearing a seat belt or strapped in a car seat. The first offense can now cost you $50, with that price going up to $125 for the second offense and $250 for offenses number three and forward.
Another major change to the Maine car seat laws is that the state is now a primary seat belt law state, which means the authorities can now stop you simply for not wearing a seat belt. They no longer have to stop you for a more serious violation to cite you for not wearing a seat belt. These laws went into effect in April of 2008.
In the state of Maine, all children must be secured in either a car seat or seat belt, depending on their age and weight. When choosing a car seat, keep in mind that it must be a federally approved car seat and you should always abide by the age and weight restrictions mentioned in the user’s manual. If these restrictions vary from the state laws, you can go by the user’s manual because each car seat is different and the manufacturer knows which restrictions are appropriate for their car seats.
Maine Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
Children up to age 3 should be in a rear-facing car seat. In fact, they should be kept in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, up to the time they reach the maximum weight recommended by the manufacturer. In the state of Maine, all children 40 pounds and under must be in some type of car seat, and seats with a 5-point harness system are required.
Rear-facing car seats do the best job of protecting infants in the case of a crash, especially their head and neck area. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you keep a child in a rear-facing car seat until the age of 2, longer if possible, and up to a weight of 20 pounds.
ME Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
Children ages 4 through 7 should be in a front-facing car seat until they reach the maximum weight recommended by the car seat’s manufacturer. In the state of Maine, children weighing between 40 and 80 pounds and who are aged 7 or under must ride in some type of federally approved child restraint system.
Once a child reaches the maximum weight recommended by the manufacturer and has outgrown a front-facing car seat, it is time to put him or her in a booster seat that is secured with a seat belt. However, like all children this age, it is required that he or she sits in the rear seats of the vehicle, not the front seat.
Laws for Booster Seats
Booster seats are for children ages 8 to 12 and who are under 4’9” in height. It cannot be just any type of booster seat, however. It must be a booster seat which can be secured with a lap and shoulder belt, and it should be one of the following two types:
- Backless booster seats: these seats should be used only if your vehicle has the proper headrests. Children’s necks and shoulders must be protected in the event of a crash, and this can only happen with proper headrests or with a booster seat that is full-sized and includes head protection.
- Booster seats with headrests: if your vehicle has no headrests or if the headrests are not safe for some reason, your child has to be in a full-sized booster seat that includes headrests. Children can suffer severe injuries if their head and neck aren’t well-protected in an accident.
In addition, the seat belt must be properly fastened at all times. This means a lap belt that fits across the lap and not the waist, and a shoulder belt that fits across the chest and not under the arm or across the neck area. Children in booster seats must also be able to sit with their feet on the floor and their backs against the back of the seat.
If you feel your child is unable to sit like this for long periods of time, it is best to keep him or her in a front-facing car seat a little longer. There is nothing wrong with doing this, as some children simply lack the maturity to sit safely and properly in a booster seat.
Height and Weight Requirements
There are few hard-and-fast requirements for height and weight in Maine, but below are some guidelines they require for children under the age of 18:
- Children who weigh under 40 pounds are required to be in a federally approved car safety seat
- Children from 40 to 80 pounds and who are under the age of 8 must ride in some type of federally approved child restraint system, either a car seat or a booster seat
- Children 8 years of age and older, under 18 years of age, and more than 4’9” in height must be secured with a proper seat belt
- Any child who is less than 12 years old and who weighs under 100 pounds should ride in the back seat of the vehicle whenever possible
Again, following the recommendations in your car seat’s user’s manual is crucial, because each manufacturer knows which rules apply to their specific product. If you are ever in doubt regarding the manufacturer versus the state-recommended guidelines, choosing the manufacturer’s recommendations is always best.
Maine Laws for Seat Belts
As soon as children reach a height of 4’9” and are at least 8 years old, they can ride with just a seat belt and no car seat. However, it is still recommended that they remain in the back seat of the vehicle to make certain they are safe. This is not a legal requirement, but just a suggestion; however, the rear seats of the vehicle are always safest for children.
Maine is also one of the many states that has checkpoints in case you’d like to have your child’s car seat inspected to make sure it is safe. The service is free and available in many cities across the state.