If you’re a mother or mother-to-be, you need to know Idaho’s car seat laws.
Car seats are important for keeping your child safe until they’re old enough to ride using an adult seat belt, so you need to know about the current car seat laws, which explain how long children should ride rear-facing, forward-facing and how long they should use booster seats.
We’ll also provide information on exceptions to the laws, the penalties for violating them, answer some frequently asked questions, and provide some information on a new cell phone usage law that took effect in Idaho.
Previous Idaho Car Seat Law
Previous Idaho car seat laws required children to ride in rear-facing car seats from birth until at least age 1 or 20 pounds, front-facing or convertible car seats from age 1 to age 6 or 40 pounds, and to use a lap and shoulder belt from age 6 to 15.
Current Idaho Car Seat Laws
According to current Idaho car seat laws adopted in 1988:
- Children should ride in the rear-facing position until age 2, or until they reach the highest height and weight the seat will allow. Infants are safest in this position because there’s less risk of injuring their fragile body. If they’re in a crash, the car seat absorbs most of the impact, which means less injury.
- Once they’ve outgrown the rear-facing car seat, children should ride forward-facing until they reach the highest height and weight limit for their car seat. For most car seats, this is approximately 4 years old and between 40 and 65 pounds. They should use the top tether until they weigh 40 pounds.
- Children should ride in a booster seat until they’re a minimum age of 8 years old or 4’9″ in height. Parents should use a high-back booster or belt positioning booster that has no back, depending on what kind of vehicle they have. If they have a vehicle that has headrests or high seat backs in the back seats, a backless booster seat would be better. If the vehicle doesn’t have head rests or high seat backs in the back, they should use a booster seat with a high back.
- Lap belt only seating positions should not be used with a booster seat – children should ride in one of the shoulder harness seating positions so their chest and collar bone are protected.
- Once a child is 13 years old and at least 5 feet tall, they can use an adult seat belt without a booster seat. The lap belt needs to lay across the top of the thighs, and the shoulder belt across their chest. Their knees should bend at seat’s edge.
Exceptions to the laws
- If all the seat belt positions in the vehicle are in use, then the child should be placed in the rear seat of the vehicle if it has one.
- If the child is removed from the seat because the mother has to nurse them or attend to their other needs.
Penalties for violating car seat laws
If a child isn’t in a safety seat, the penalty is an $84.00 fine. Subsequent violations carry a $90.00 fine.
Buses, Taxis and Uber
- Seat belts are not required on buses, however school bus drivers are required to get specific training. They have to have a CDL license, and two endorsements for it – one for driving a school bus, and another for driving a school bus with passengers.
- Car seats still need to be used when riding in taxis or Uber cars – if the taxi or Uber doesn’t already have one, the adult will need to supply one.
Car Seat Programs for Idaho Residents
St. Luke’s Children’s Car Seat Program
Car seats are one of the most expensive items you’ll have to buy for your child, but luckily one hospital has a program to help. Idaho residents who want a free or reduced-price car seat can contact St. Luke’s Children’s Car Seat program at 208-381-3033.
Safe Kids Magic Valley Car Seat Program
You can also contact the Safe Kids Magic Valley Car Seat Program at St. Lukes at 208-814-7640, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have a small child, be sure to enroll them in the WHALE (We Have A Little Emergency) Program. This program provides a special identification card to children in case they’re involved in a crash. The card should be put on the seat. It allows rescue workers to find out the child’s name, plus the card has a photograph and the child’s information on it.
The kit provided also includes stickers for parents to put on the car seat and the vehicle. Contact the Idaho Department of Highway Safety to get a kit or find out more information.
If you choose to participate in this program, keep the following pointers in mind:
- It’s a good idea to give WHALE information to other people who regularly drive your child.
- Make corrections to the card as information changes.
- Remove the information card from the seat if you sell it or give it away.
New cell phone usage law in Idaho Falls
If you’re a resident of Idaho Falls, you need to know about a new law that went into effect during October of 2018. Now drivers in Idaho Falls who use cell phones without a hands-free device will receive a ticket, though no fines will be given until January.
Key points to know:
- Once the fines take effect in 2019, they’ll be $100 for the first offense and $200 for the second offense.
- The law will be a primary offense, which means officers can pull over a driver and give them a citation if they see them driving with a cellphone in their hand.
- If a driver violates the law twice in two years, they can be charged with a misdemeanor for their third offense.
- The law doesn’t apply to law enforcement officers using a cellphone for business reasons, and residents can use a cell phone if there’s an emergency.
FAQs about Car Seat Laws
When can my child sit in the front seat in Idaho?
- They can sit in the front seat when they’re 14 years old.
What are the height and weight requirements for a booster seat?
- The height requirement is 4’9″. Weight is going to vary based on the brand of the booster seat, but you can get an idea if your child is ready for a booster seat by using this online checker.
How long should a child be rear-facing?
- They should stay in the rear-facing position until age 2.
That’s everything you need to know about Idaho’s car seat law changes, the different types of car seats available and when to use them, the car seat program that’s available for Idaho residents who can’t afford a car seat, frequently asked questions about Idaho’s car seat laws, and the new cell phone usage law that went into effect.
As a new or expecting parent, you need to stay up to date on the car seat laws, because they can change as lawmakers find out new things about how easily children can be injured in serious car accidents.
Keeping up on car seat law changes will ensure your child will stay as safe as possible when they ride in a car with you.