In the West Virginia car seat laws, all drivers and front-seat passengers as well as all back-seat passengers who are not adults must be in some type of restraint system, which means a car seat, booster seat, or standard seatbelts.
Although you do not receive points on your driver’s license for this type of violation, you will be fined $25 for either not wearing a seatbelt yourself or not securing a child in the proper restraint system. Adults riding in the back seat of a vehicle are not required to buckle up in the state of West Virginia.
The state also recognizes certain types of car seats that they consider proper ones, including:
- Infant seats, which are used for babies under 35 pounds and are always facing the rear of the vehicle
- Convertible car seats, which convert easily from rear-facing to front-facing and can be used by older babies as well as infants
- All-in-one car seats, which are very versatile because they can go from rear-facing to front-facing car seats and then to booster seats with just a few adjustments on your part
- Forward-facing combination car seats, which only face the front of the vehicle and allow you to remove the harness and use it as a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt once the child gets older
- High-back and backless booster seats, which depend on the sturdiness of the headrests in your vehicle when determining which one to purchase
The state also has transportation safety departments that will help you find the right car seat for your needs, which can be found with a quick search on the Internet.
Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
Rear-facing car seats are made for babies from birth to around the age of two and they face the rear of the vehicle because that is the best way to keep infants as safe as possible. The state recommends using this type of seat and placing it in the back seat of the vehicle until the child is two years old or once the child reaches the maximum weight recommended in the seat’s owner’s manual. It is perfectly all right to stick to the recommendations suggested by the manufacturer of the car seat because each seat is different and these manufacturers know their car seats the best.
It is also recommended that rear-facing car seats always be placed in the back seat of the vehicle and never in the front seat, especially if the front seat contains an airbag that can seriously harm or even kill a small baby.
Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
Once children reach the age of two, you can place them in front-facing car seats as long as they have five-point harness systems to keep them ultra-safe. Front-facing car seats are usually used until children reach the age of four or a weight of 40 pounds, when they can begin to use booster seats of some type. Front-facing car seats are made for older babies and toddlers and you should always make sure that the tops of their ears are below the top of the car seat for extra protection and support.
Laws for Booster Seats
Once kids reach the age of four or a weight of 40 pounds, you can place them in booster seats. If your vehicle has no headrests, it is crucial that you choose a full-back booster seat so that the head and neck are supported in case of a crash. If you do have proper headrests, you can choose either a full-back or backless booster seat because you’ll have something that protects the child’s head and neck the right way.
It is also important to remember that booster seats need to be secured using a lap and shoulder belt, not just a lap belt! The shoulder belt needs to fit snugly over the chest and centered on the collar bone; the lap belt needs to be placed over the thighs and hips and not the abdomen. If you feel that your child is unable to be secure enough in a booster seat, e.g., if his or her feet don’t touch the floor or if he or she is unable to ride in this position for extended periods of time, it may be necessary to go back to a front-facing car seat for a bit longer.
There is no shame in keeping children in any type of car seat until they reach the maximum height and weight. In fact, being too anxious to move them up to the next type of restraint system can do them more harm than good.
Height and Weight Requirements
Here is a general recap of the height and weight recommendations suggested by the West Virginia car seat laws:
- Babies up to 2 years of age or roughly 20 pounds: rear-facing car seat only
- Ages 2-4: front-facing car seats with five-point harness systems
- Age 4 and weighing 40 pounds: booster seat
- Age 8 or a minimum of 4’9” in height: standard seatbelts
Once again, adhering to the recommendations made by the maker of your car seat always keeps your child as safe as possible, especially since the above suggestions are merely recommendations and not requirements.
Laws for Seatbelts
In West Virginia, the driver and front-seat passenger are always required to be buckled up but adults are not required to wear seatbelts if they ride in the back seat. The state recommends that anyone under the age of 13 ride in the back seat only. The authorities cannot stop you just for improper seatbelt use. In other words, they can only give you a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt if a separate violation has occurred.
The fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $25 and certain vehicles are exempt from the seatbelt/car seat laws. These include motorcycles, trailers, school buses, public transportation systems, postal vehicles, and some farm vehicles. In addition, if you drive a vehicle made before 1968, the seatbelt laws do not apply because most of these vehicles were made without any seatbelts in them.