In the New York car seat laws, all drivers and front-seat passengers must wear seat belts at all times while the vehicle is in motion. Passengers in the rear seats of the vehicle who are under the age of 16 must also wear seat belts. If you are over the age of 16 and sitting in the rear seats of the vehicle, you are not required to wear a seat belt.
In addition, children under 4 years of age must be in a federally approved child safety seat, while children ages 4 to 8 have to be in either a car seat or a booster seat. If the driver of the vehicle has only a learner’s permit or some type of limited driver’s license, all passengers – regardless of age – in both the front and rear seats must be in some type of restraint system.
New York Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
In the New York car seat laws, all children ages 4 and under must be in a federally approved car seat, and babies 0 to 2 years of age who weigh less than 20 pounds should be in a rear-facing car seat. In fact, the child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until the maximum weight limit is reached that is recommended by the car seat’s manufacturer.
Each car seat is different, which is why the manufacturer’s recommendations should always be the deciding factor when you are unsure how long to keep your child in any type of car seat. Generally, children remain in rear-facing car seats until the age of 2 or around 20 to 30 pounds.
NY Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
Once your child has reached the maximum weight for a rear-facing car seat, it is recommended that you switch to a front-facing car seat. If the top of your child’s head is at least 1 inch below the top of the car seat, the seat is appropriate and will keep him/her safe. Normally, children remain in front-facing car seats until they reach the age of 4 or a weight of 40 pounds.
Once again, you should abide by the recommendations made in the user’s manual of your child’s car seat. The longer they are in a certain size car seat, the safer they’ll be. Never be too anxious to move up to the next type of child car seat.
Laws for Booster Seats
Booster seats are usually used for children ages 4 to 8 and who weigh between 40 and 100 pounds. Once you switch to a booster seat, the seat must be restrained using a seat belt with both a lap and shoulder belt, and it must be worn properly by the child. This means that the lap belt has to fit across the lap and not the stomach area, and the shoulder belt should fit across the shoulders and chest, not the head and neck area. In addition, it is required that booster seats 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.
Children should also be old enough and mature enough to sit properly in a booster seat. This means their feet should sit comfortably on the floor and they should be able to sit up straight in the vehicle seat. They should also be able to sit this way for the entire trip; otherwise, it may be a smart idea to place them back into a front-facing car seat for a bit longer.
Height and Weight Requirements
Here are the few height and weight requirements recommended by the state of New York:
- Ages 0-2 and 20 pounds or lighter: rear-facing car seat
- Ages 2-4 and roughly 40 pounds or lighter: front-facing car seat
- Ages 4-8 and 40+ pounds: booster seat with lap and shoulder belt
- Ages 9+ and 4’9” in height: standard seat belt
In addition, it is best if children be placed in the rear seat of the vehicle. If only the front seat is available, the airbag should be disconnected because an airbag can seriously harm or even kill a baby or young child should an accident occur.
New York Laws for Seat Belts
In the state of New York, each person in the vehicle who isn’t properly restrained will usually receive a citation, not just the driver. However, there are certain vehicles in the state that do not have to properly restrain all of the passengers, including taxis and limos, public transportation buses, some large passenger vans, school buses, and certain farm vehicles.
In addition, if your child has a medical condition that prevents him or her from being able to use a car seat, he or she is exempt from the New York car seat laws. However, in these cases you must have documentation stating this is the case, and the document has to be signed by a physician and kept in the vehicle at all times in case you need to show it to the authorities.
The penalty for not wearing a seat belt in New York is usually around $50. You can also get a ticket if you are the driver and have a passenger in the vehicle who is under the age of 16 and unrestrained. That penalty can cost you anywhere from $25 and $100 and will also add points to your driver’s license.
The state of New York takes its seat belt and car seat laws seriously, so it is smart to buckle up – and make sure all of your passengers do the same – every time you get behind the wheel of a car. To do otherwise can mean fines or driver’s license points, not to mention the worst-case scenario – an injured child.