In March 2015, Governor Chris Christie signed legislation imposing more stringent regulations on car seat use in New Jersey. The revisions, which took effect on September 1st, will adhere to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on car seat safety.
“In New Jersey we have not updated our child seat safety laws in more than 30 years, which means we need to catch up with the modern capabilities of the car seats for the safety of our kids,” said New Jersey Senator Jim Beach.
The revised law could cause confusion among parents and may require parents to purchase new car seats or booster seats for their children. A breakdown of the new rules is provided below.
Infant to age 2: Car seats must be rear-facing with five-point harnesses for a child under 30 lbs and under age 2. Once the child has exceeded that age and weight, s/he can be moved to a forward facing car seat.
Ages 2 to 4: Children must remain in a five-point harness in the back seat until they reach age 4 and weigh at least 40 lbs. They can be switched from rear to forward facing based on the weight and height capabilities of their car seats.
Ages 4 to 8: Children can stay in a five-point harness as long as they are within the height and weight recommended by the car seat’s manufacturer. However, once a child reaches both four years of age and 40 lbs, a booster seat can be used. Children must be appropriately secured in a car seat or booster in the back seat until they reach age 8 and are 57 inches tall.
Front Seat: A child can only sit in the front seat of a vehicle if that vehicle does not have a back seat. However, car seat and booster seat regulations still apply and the vehicle’s passenger-side airbag must also be disabled if a rear-facing car seat is strapped into the front seat.
The fines for violating the laws have been raised from $10-$25 to $50-$75. However, the law does not say how police would verify the age, height, or weight of a child when issuing a ticket. Parents have expressed concern over whether they will have to carry identification for their children, such as a birth certificate, to verify their child’s age if pulled over.
Another common complaint among parents is that their children are uncomfortable when the seat is rear-facing, but the new law does not allow exceptions for discomfort. “Children are able to get comfortable,” said pediatrician Howard Mazin, adding that everyone has seen kids fall asleep in bizarre positions.
Meanwhile, NJ traffic officers say they are more concerned about whether the car seats are properly installed than about collecting fines. To help transition, every county in New Jersey has child safety seat checkpoints where parents and caregivers can get free help to determine which seat they need, how to install it and how to adjust it to fit their child. A schedule is posted on the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety website.
If you or a loved one recently received a child seat belt ticket, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of The Rosenblum Law Firm today. He can be reached at 888-883-5529.