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Car Seat Laws in New Jersey

A mom buckles her infant son safely into a rear facing car seat

New Jersey Car Seat Laws 

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Up until just five years ago, the state of New Jersey only required children to be seated in rear-facing car seats until they reached one year of age. However, most official child health and safety organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend that children be placed in car seats that face backward until the age of two. In 2015, New Jersey officially agreed.

Mandatory NJ Law For Rear-Facing Car Seats 

In order to improve child safety and reduce the likelihood of serious injury or death in a car accident, the state passed new legislation mandating that all children must use rear-facing, five-point harness car seats until they are two years old and 30 pounds. Even if your child has long limbs and must bend his or her knees to face backward, or if your child simply seems “too big” to face the rear of your vehicle, he or she must be in a rear-facing seat if he or she is under the age of two and under 30 pounds.

When Can Car Seat Face Forward in NJ? 

Current New Jersey children's car seat laws states that a child can be placed in a forward-facing, five-point harness car seat when they are more than two years old and more than 30 pounds. However, any child under the age of four and under 100+ combined pounds may not be placed in a booster or car seat that only uses the car’s shoulder belts; children under this age and weight limitation must use a five-point car seat or a rear-facing car seat.

Can My Five-Year-Old Use a Booster Seat?

Yes; in New Jersey, a child over the age of four and over 100+ combined pounds may be placed in a forward-facing five-point harness car seat or a booster seat that utilizes the car’s shoulder belt. However, most children’s health and safety organizations recommend that all children between the ages of four and eight use a car seat until they surpass the seat’s capacity. Then, the child should be moved to a booster.

New Jersey law states that children under the age of eight and under 57 inches tall must use either a five-point car seat or a booster seat; children who are not at least eight years old and 57 inches tall may not simply sit in a car’s regular seat.

Can My Child Sit in the Front Seat in New Jersey?

If a child is over the age of eight and over 57 inches tall, New Jersey law permits him or her to sit in a car’s regular seat and use the vehicle’s shoulder seatbelt. While there is no specific law stating when a child over the age of eight and over 57 inches tall can move to the front seat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children under the age of 13 be seated in the back of cars and other vehicles.

Younger, smaller children can be severely injured or killed by airbags in the front of vehicles—it is always safer to place children in the back seat. However, if your vehicle does not have a backseat or if your child (who, remember, must be older than eight and over 57 inches) does sit in the front seat of your car, you should turn off the airbag for the passenger seat.

If you have a car or vehicle that does not have a back seat, such as a sports car or truck, your child can be placed in the front seat in a car seat that faces backward. By law, you must turn off the airbag if your child is placed in a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of your vehicle.

The Importance of Following New Jersey Car Seat Law

The New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety reports that the leading cause of death in children over six months old is motor vehicle accidents. Ensuring that your child is seated in a properly installed and correctly sized car seat, facing the right way, is one of the very best ways to ensure your child’s safety in the event of a collision.

It simply cannot be overstated just how important it is that you use the correct, lawful car seat for your child, every single time he or she rides in a vehicle. There is no exception for children riding in Ubers/Lyfts, taxis, shared cars, or other similar vehicles.

In order to help ensure children are placed in the right car seats, New Jersey State Police have set up checkpoints at various locations throughout the state where troopers can check child car seat installations and make sure that children are in the correct seat for their age and size. Parents and caretakers found to be in violation of the law will be fined $50 – $75. In 2016, state police issued a reported $6,000+ in tickets for child car seat violations. Make sure you know the law to protect your child’s safety!

For more information, contact Palmisano & Goodman, P.A. today.