Child Safety Laws Information
Child safety laws are vast and numerous. While there are laws that concern consumer safety and apply to products that are designed for children, the most visible child safety laws apply to automobile safety. There are federal and state child safety laws.
Federal Child Safety Laws
As of Sept. 1, 1999, federal legislation that requires a new restraining system for child-safety seats took effect. The rules, developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), will make it easier for parents to install safety seats correctly. The NHTSA estimates that the new requirements will save 50 lives and prevent 3,000 injuries in the United States each year.
The new restraining system consists of three components — two horizontal bars and one tether anchor — which automakers must install. The bars will be positioned low, at the intersection of the seat cushion and the seatback. The tether anchor is the object to which the tether strap of the safety seat will attach. With few exceptions, all motor vehicles must be equipped to anchor at least two safety seats.
Child-seat manufacturers are required to design hooks or buckles for their forward-facing seats that clasp onto the horizontal bars. They are not required to install a top-anchoring component, but they must meet a new head-excursion requirement, which puts stricter limits on the distance a child’s head can move forward in the case of an accident. Most manufacturers will take care of this new provision by installing a tether strap that can fit the car’s tether anchor.
Child Safety Recommentations Concerning Airbags
Of the 231 deaths attributed to airbags as of mid-2003 by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), 144 were children. NHTSA recommends that children under 13 ride in the rear seat. This helps increase overall child safety and reduce the risk of injury in the most common type of accident--a frontal collision--because they will be further away from the impact.
State Child Safety Laws
All 50 states and the District of Columbia require infants and toddlers to be in a child-safety seat. However, many laws apply to children up to three or four years of age, and the cutoff ages vary widely. A few state laws apply specifically to children weighing 40 pounds or less. Keeping in mind that fines for an improperly restrained child can exceed $100, it is best to consult your local Department of Motor Vehicles for more information.
Bigger children can ride in back without a special seat if the lap and shoulder belts fit properly. If the shoulder belt rubs their neck or if the lap belt cuts across their tummy, try a booster seat. Child seats can increase child safety and reduce the death risk by 70 percent if correctly installed; yet NHTSA says as many as four out of five are improperly used.
While all 50 states have child-safety laws on the books, the ages of the children covered by these laws differs from state to state. The NHTSA recommends a national standard that would place all children in child-safety restraints until they are 8 years old or weigh 60 pounds. Use the pull-down menu on the right to select your state.
Check out child safety laws in your state
Even if you know all the rules, buying and installing a child-safety seat properly can be complicated. Fortunately, many private and governmental organizations are dedicated to offering consumers services that will help them secure their children safely. For example, the NHTSA has compiled a state-by-state list of child passenger-safety contacts. You can find this information on the NHTSA website.
For more information about child safety laws in your state, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles.