Although the Oklahoma car seat laws have few requirements when it comes to age and weight as it relates to car seat usage, it does require that all children be in a proper restraint system until they are old enough to use seatbelts correctly. This is why they recommend not only DOT-approved car seats, but also offer free inspections to people who are unsure if the car seat they have is appropriate for their child.
In most cases, a brand-new car seat is best because the manufacturer is up-to-date with all of the current safety regulations. In addition, you should always adhere to the recommendations made by the manufacturer regarding age, height, and weight. In fact, if you do this, you’ll be in compliance with Oklahoma’s laws regarding car seats and your child will be safe.
If any of the state’s recommendations differ from what your car seat’s owner’s manual says, it is best to stick with the owner’s manual because each car seat is different, and the manufacturers know their car seats best. Fortunately, there will likely be little difference between the two, and a little common sense can help you determine how to best keep your child safe.
Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
The Oklahoma car seat laws recommend that all babies, two years old and under, be placed in a rear-facing car seat because this is the safest method for infants. Rear-facing car seats are better able to protect a baby’s head, shoulders, and spine in the event of an accident, especially if kept in the back seats of the vehicle. In fact, rear-facing car seats are not allowed in the front seat of the vehicle because this does not offer enough protection for infants.
Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
Starting around the age of two, you can switch to a front-facing car seat, and most toddlers remain in this type of seat until the age of four. Front-facing car seats, like the ones that face the rear of the vehicle, should always have a five-point harness system to keep the child as safe as possible. The seat has to be installed properly and used the right way at all times to be effective.
Laws for Booster Seats
At around the age of four, toddlers can switch to a booster seat. They can remain there until they reach the age of eight or they are 4’9” in height. Afterwards, they can be secured with a standard adult-sized seatbelt. The state also wants people to know there are two different types of booster seats, including:
- Backless booster seats, which can only be used if your vehicle has the correct type of headrests
- Full-back booster seats, which should be used if your vehicle does not have appropriate headrests because they will properly protect the child’s head, neck, and spine area
Naturally, you can use both a full-back booster seat and your vehicle’s headrests for additional safety, but it is important to choose this type of seat if your vehicle has no headrests. This means that before you purchase your car seat, you need to know the true condition of the headrests in your vehicle.
You also need to use a lap and shoulder belt with your booster seat and never just a lap belt. Make sure the shoulder belt fits securely across the child’s chest and the lap belt fits across the thighs, not the abdomen. If the child isn’t as secure as you think he or she should be in a booster seat, it likely means you should switch back to a front-facing car seat. Even if your child meets the age and height requirements for a booster seat, it doesn’t mean he or she is ready for this type of car seat. Going back to a front-facing car seat is sometimes the smartest and the safest thing to do for your child.
Height and Weight Requirements
There are few height and weight requirements in the state of Oklahoma regarding car seats, with the exception of the 4’9” rule that states they must be this tall to switch from a booster seat to a regular seatbelt. However, here are the general guidelines for car seat safety in Oklahoma:
- 0-2 years of age: rear-facing car seat
- 2-4 years of age: front-facing car seat
- 4-8 years of age: booster seat
- 8 years of age and 4’9” in height: standard seatbelts
Again, if you adhere to the recommendations made by your car seat’s owner’s manual, your child will be safe because each car seat is different and the manufacturer always knows what will work at certain ages and weights for their particular product.
Laws for Seatbelts
Once a child reaches a height of 4’9”, he or she is allowed to ride in a vehicle wearing a standard seatbelt. The state of Oklahoma makes the following recommendations for all seatbelt-wearers:
- Children 13 and under should always ride in the back seat of the vehicle where it is safer
- No child in a rear-facing car seat should ever be in the front seat of the vehicle
- You should always know what your child’s height and weight are so that you can determine the best type of car seat
In Oklahoma, seatbelt laws are primary, which means the authorities can pull you over and fine you simply for not wearing your seatbelt. The fine for this violation starts at $20, and there are no points assessed to your driver’s license by the state. The driver of the vehicle and the front-seat passenger must be wearing some type of restraint system at all times, and if your child has a disability that makes being in a car seat impossible or difficult, you must have a statement signed by a doctor testifying to this. Other than this law, however, the state of Oklahoma requires that all persons age eight and under be in some type of restraint system whenever they are in a moving vehicle, regardless of where they are sitting. The only exception to this is the use of vehicles such as post office vehicles, taxicabs, and a few others.