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Pennsylvania Car Seat Laws

Nothing is more important than keeping your child safe. Motor vehicle accidents pose an immense threat to every child’s safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 608 passengers under the age of 12 lost their lives in traffic accidents in 2019. Thirty-eight percent of these victims were not buckled up. You could save your child’s life by obeying Pennsylvania’s car seat laws on every trip.

When Are Car Seats Mandatory in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania lawmakers are dedicated to protecting child passengers. Section 4581 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code places certain responsibilities on parents and guardians when operating a motor vehicle with children under the age of 18. Part of this law requires car seats or booster seats, referred to as approved child passenger restraint systems, for all infants and children under the age of eight riding in the car. 

All drivers in Pennsylvania operating vehicles – including motorhomes and antique cars – must securely fasten infants and children under the age of eight in approved child safety seats. The car seat or booster seat must be located in a position in the vehicle that has a seat belt. For maximum child safety, the back seat is recommended. Children ages 8 to 18 must be properly secured using a seat belt. In addition, adults over the age of 18 in Pennsylvania are required to wear a seat belt in the front seat of the vehicle.

What Is the Penalty for Failing to Use a Car Seat?

Breaking Pennsylvania’s Child Passenger Protection Law by having your child unrestrained or improperly restrained in your vehicle can come with multiple repercussions. This is a primary law, meaning a police officer needs no other reason to pull you over. First, a violator is fined $75. Then, the violator must pay an additional $45 surcharge, $10 EMS Fund charge, $10 administrative fee and court costs (adjusted annually). The fine will be dismissed if, prior to his or her hearing, the violator can show evidence that he or she has installed a child passenger restraint system or booster seat.

What Is the Right Type of Car Seat for My Child?

The type of booster seat or car seat that is right for your child depends on his or her age, height and weight in Pennsylvania. The Child Passenger Protection Law specifically states that a child under the age of eight should use an approved car seat or booster seat until the child outgrows the device manufacturer’s designated maximum weight and height limits. The car seat or booster seat must be appropriate to fit the child. Otherwise, the car seat won’t be able to properly protect the child in a car accident. Our team of Pittsburgh car accident lawyers are knowledgeable of Pennsylvania car seat laws and can provide legal representation in the event of an injury claim. 

Here are the current car seat guidelines, created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and enforced by Pennsylvania State legislature:

  • Any infant or child under the age of two years old must be secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system. Infants in rear-facing seats should never ride in the front seat if the passenger side front airbag is active.
  • A child under the age of four must be securely restrained in a child safety seat that is suitable for the child, such as a forward-facing car seat, until he or she outgrows the manufacturer’s limits.
  • A child between the ages of four and eight must use a booster seat to lift the child to the appropriate height to properly use a seat belt.
  • A child eight and older must be restrained with a seat belt.

The NHTSA’s recommendations are more specific – they state that a child should remain in a car seat or booster seat until he or she is at least 8 years old, 57 inches tall and 80 pounds in weight. In addition, the NHTSA recommends keeping children in the back seat at least until age 12. If parents need assistance acquiring, installing or using the required child restraint device in Pennsylvania, they can visit one of the state’s free child safety seat check locations or car seat loan programs

Get Legal Help If You or Your Child Has Been Injured

Car seats can save a child’s life in the event of a car accident. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury after a car crash in Pennsylvania, contact our Pittsburgh personal injury lawyers for experienced legal help seeking compensation for your injuries.

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