This week is Child Passenger Safety Week and the NHTSA is focusing on how important it is for every child under the age of 16 to be properly restrained. New York State law requires children to use a booster or car seat appropriate for their height, weight, and age. A seat belt violation can result in a fine of $50 to $100, plus three points on your license.
Below are some common mistakes that parents make when it comes to car seat safety. While not all of these will result in a ticket, they all add unnecessary risk for child passengers.
- Toddlers facing forward too soon. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids remain rear-facing for a minimum of two years, regardless of height or weight, and they should continue to rear-face until they outgrow their car seat. Children under two are five times safer when rear-facing and the same is true of older children who are moved to a convertible or booster seat before they have reached the minimum age/weight requirements.
- Not replacing seats after an accident. Most manufacturers recommend replacing car seats after a crash, even a minor fender-bender. If you’re not sure whether the seat should be replaced, call the manufacturer or check their website. The good news is many auto insurance policies cover the cost of a new seat, though you may need to specifically ask the adjuster about it.
- Using after-market accessories. Anything that wasn’t included with the car seat has not been crash-tested. This means that any kind of toy, mirror, seat protector, or pillow adds to the risk of injury. In addition, using such accessories can void the manufacturer’s warranty or cause your insurance to deny coverage for a replacement seat after an accident.
- Not reading the manual. A 2012 NHTSA study found 20% of all drivers with child passengers did not read the instructions for child seats and booster seats. If you lose your seat’s manual, you can probably find a PDF copy on the manufacturer’s website.
- Using an old, expired, or recalled seat. Most car seats should be discarded six years after the date of manufacture. The expiration date can usually be found on the side of the seat, underneath the seat, or in the manual. While you may think you’re doing someone a favor, it is not advisable that you give your used car seat to a friend (or vice versa), even if it looks okay. It may be damaged in ways that aren’t visible and car seat technology evolves year after year, so current-year model seats – even more affordable brands – are significantly safer than those than came out six or more years ago.
- Not consulting a trained expert. Many law enforcement agencies and hospitals host car seat checks throughout the year, which are usually free of charge. These checks feature Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs), who are trained in the best practices of child car safety. These professionals can teach you how to install a car seat correctly and/or check that your car seats are installed properly.
If you or someone you love has been ticketed for a seat belt violation or any other traffic offense, it is advisable that you retain an attorney to fight the charges. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are experienced traffic ticket attorneys with offices in New York and New Jersey. Email or call 888-203-2619 for a free consultation about your case.