In September of 2015, the New Jersey state legislature made revisions to the New Jersey car seat laws, based on recent recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In the state of New Jersey, all children under 8 years of age and under 57 inches tall (4’9”) must be restrained in some type of child-restraint system.
If the state recommendations differ from the recommendations made by your car seat’s manufacturer, you are free to abide by the manufacturer’s recommendations instead, provided you own a federally approved car seat. In addition, if a child is under 8 years old and 4’9” tall, he or she must be riding in the rear seat of the vehicle, and this is required every time he or she is riding in a moving vehicle of any type.
New Jersey Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
In the NJ car seat laws, any child 0 to 2 years of age and under 30 pounds must be in the rear seat of a vehicle and in a rear-facing car seat at all times. In addition, the car seat must have a 5-point harness system and be a federally approved model. This reflects recent changes made by the AAP, which now recommends that children up to the age of 2 be in a rear-facing car seat (it was age 1 and 20 pounds before the changes were made).
The car seat you choose should meet all federal requirements and must be a new car seat, as older or even used car seats may not be as safe as they should be. The 5-point harness system is also very important because this will make sure that the child is restrained tightly, but comfortably and will be fully protected in the event of an accident.
Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
Any child under the age of 4 and who weighs under 40 pounds must be in a federally approved car seat with a 5-point harness system, until he or she has reached the upper limits that are recommended by the federal government and/or the manufacturer of the car seat chosen. This means that once babies reach 2 years of age or a minimum of 30 pounds, you can put them in a front-facing car seat; if under these two numbers, they must be in a rear-facing car seat.
To be safe, infants should be in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible or until they meet the maximum age and weight limits set by the car seat’s manufacturer. If you are unsure, make sure you read the user’s manual carefully so that you meet the requirements recommended by that manual.
Laws for Booster Seats
Children ages 4 to 8 who are under 4’9” in height need to be in a booster seat that is secured by a standard seat belt. The booster seat must also 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.
It is important that you inspect your vehicle before purchasing your car booster seat to determine whether or not your headrests are appropriate and safe. This will help you purchase the right type of booster seat for your child. Remember, you have to have sturdy headrests to purchase a backless booster seat. Otherwise, a full-back booster seat is required.
Height and Weight Requirements – NJ Car Seat Laws
The state of New Jersey requires the following heights, weights, and ages for their car-restraint systems:
- Ages 0-2 and up to 30 pounds: rear-facing car seat
- Ages 2-4 and up to 40 pounds: front-facing car seat
- Ages 4-8 and under 4’9” in height: booster seat
- Age 9 and more than 4’9” tall: standard seat belts
It is also recommended that all children be placed in the rear seat of your vehicle whenever possible. If this is not possible and they are placed in the front seat, you must disconnect your airbag before installing the car seat. Airbags can seriously harm or even kill young children and therefore should never be used when these children are in the vehicle. Please see NJ Child Passenger Safety Law for more information.
Laws for Seat Belts
If you are over the age of 8 and are at least 4’9” in height, you are required to wear a seat belt as long as you’re in a moving vehicle. To wear only a seat belt, the child must be able to sit up properly and have his or her feet on the ground while the knees are bent comfortably. Children should also be able to sit in this position for as long as they are riding in the vehicle.
If your child does not fit one of these requirements, it is recommended that you go back to placing him or her in a booster seat. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and there are times when children aren’t mature enough for a seat belt, even if they meet the recommended age or height requirement. In these cases, these children need to be in a booster seat that is secured with a seat belt.
In New Jersey, the driver of the vehicle is responsible for making sure that everyone is restrained properly as long as the vehicle is moving. These seat belt laws also apply to any type of moving vehicle, including sedans, pickup trucks, SUVs, minivans, and so on. However, there are exceptions to these laws, but they mostly pertain to vehicles such as taxicabs, large passenger vehicles, school buses, and a few others.
Since unrestrained children are over-represented in statistics for fatalities, it is important that everyone be sure that all children under the age of 18 are properly secured every time they are in a moving vehicle.