As in most states, the state of Utah requires that the driver and all passengers in a moving vehicle be in some type of restraint system the entire time, which includes car seats, booster seats, or standard seatbelts. In addition, the Utah car seat laws recommend that all children under the age of 13 remain in the back seat of the vehicle while it is in motion in order to keep them at their safest.
All car seats should meet federal safety requirements, which usually means the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 213. Before you purchase a car seat, you should look for this number on the label. If your child has special needs, you may need a specialized car seat that may be covered under Medicaid, which therefore helps with the expense that usually comes with it.
The state offers more recommendations than it does requirements, other than the fact that everyone in a moving vehicle needs to be buckled in the entire time. However, below are some of their recommendations for both car seats and seatbelts.
Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
Since the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that babies two and under be kept in rear-facing car seats, this is what the state of Utah also recommends. You can still follow the height and weight recommendations listed in the owner’s manual of the car seat but the state recommends that babies two and under, and up to 30 pounds, remain in rear-facing car seats every time.
Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
Once babies outgrow their rear-facing car seats, which is when they reach the height and weight mentioned in the owner’s manual, they can be switched over to front-facing car seats. Babies and toddlers can remain in front-facing car seats until they reach 40 pounds, which is usually around four years of age. Again, if the owner’s manual says that you can keep them in a front-facing car seat even longer, it is recommended that you do so.
Laws for Booster Seats
In Utah, booster seats are recommended for children who are four and older and who weigh at least 40 pounds. In addition, children can remain in a booster seat until they reach 4’9” in height, according to the law. It is also recommended that you know the differences between the two main types of booster seats, which are:
- High-back booster seats are made for vehicles that do not have proper headrests because they can support the neck, shoulder, and spine of the child if an accident should
- Backless booster seats should only be used when your vehicle has proper headrests that can support your child in the case of an accident.
Because of this, you should inspect your vehicle’s headrests and learn whether or not they are sturdy enough to support your child, because this is the only way to make sure that you purchase the right booster seat for your child. After all, children are in this type of car seat usually until the age of eight so it is important to have the right one in the end.
Another important part of placing your children in booster seats is that all of them require the use of a lap and shoulder seatbelt, never just a lap belt. The lap and shoulder belt needs to fit correctly over the car seat and the child because if it doesn’t, this might be an indication that he or she would be better off in a front-facing car seat. This usually happens with children who are short or small for their age.
When it comes to car seats for babies and young children, it is always recommended that you keep them in their current car seat for as long as possible; i.e., until the owner’s manual says that need to move them up to the next type of restraint system. This is the best way to know for sure that you’re doing all you can to keep your children safe.
Height and Weight Requirements
There are few actual height and weight requirements in the state of Utah for car seats and seatbelts with the exception of the following basic recommendations:
- Ages 0-12 months: rear-facing car seats
- Ages 1-3 years: rear-facing and front-facing car seats
- Ages 4-7 years: front-facing and booster seats
- Ages 8-12 years: booster seats and standard seatbelts
- Ages 13 and older: seatbelts only
Again, the brand of car seat that you choose will provide you with certain height and weight recommendations and it is smart to adhere to these. You should also use a new car seat only as older car seats may be on the “recall” list and may have features that won’t keep children as safe as they deserve to be.
Laws for Seatbelts
Once a child reaches the height of 4’9”, you can switch from a booster seat to standard seatbelts. This includes both lap and shoulder belts as regular lap belts are unacceptable. The shoulder belt should fit snugly over the chest area while the lap belt should fit over the thigh area.
It is also important to remember that airbags work with seatbelts to keep you safe; they do not replace seatbelts. If you are thrown into an airbag during a crash but aren’t wearing a seatbelt, you can be injured or even killed. Therefore, you should wear your seatbelt every time that you’re in a moving vehicle, especially since airbags can deploy in crashes at speeds as low as 15 mph and the airbag itself can reach 200 mph when it’s deploying.
The state of Utah also recommends learning how to properly buckle up in your vehicle, which includes the following:
- Make sure that your headrest fits between the top of your ears and the top of your head.
- Make sure that the shoulder belt fits across your shoulder bone and across your chest, never up on your neck area.
- Make sure that the lap belt fits below your stomach and across the hips.
- Never put the seatbelt behind your back or underneath your arm.
The driver and all passengers in a moving vehicle must be restrained in either a car seat or seatbelts the entire time. If you or any passenger in your vehicle isn’t properly buckled up, you can receive a fine of $45.