Injuries and death resulting from car accidents are some of the most preventable tragedies impacting children around the country. Properly securing a child in a car seat or using a seat belt can help reduce the risk by up to 75%.
Because of this, all fifty states have laws which require that babies and children are properly secured while riding in passenger vehicles, and New Jersey is no exception.
All children must be properly secured while riding in a motor vehicle. New Jersey car seat laws require children under the age of 2 and under 30 pounds to ride in a rear-facing baby seat. Small children must be secured in an appropriate car safety seat until they are big enough to use a booster.
- Car Seat Laws in New Jersey
- New Jersey Car Seat Laws for Babies
- New Jersey Car Seat Laws for Children
- Booster Seat Laws in New Jersey
- When Can a Child Stop Using a Booster Seat in New Jersey?
- The Seat Belt Fit Test
- When Can a Child Sit in the Front Seat in New Jersey?
- New Jersey Taxi Car Seat Laws
- Leaving Child Unattended Law in New Jersey
- Can You Smoke in the Car with Children in New Jersey?
- Penalties for Violating Car Seat Regulations
- Other Useful Resources
- Assistance with Free or Low-Cost Car Seats
- Other Helpful Links and Resources
Car Seat Laws in New Jersey
According to New Jersey legislation (P.L. 2015, c.50) children that are under the age of eight and weigh less than 80 pounds must be properly secured in an approved child safety seat.
The type of seat and the direction that it should face depends on the child’s age and weight.
Children that are at least eight years old and weigh more than 80 pounds are required to wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety seat belt.
There are more specific rules for babies and small children regarding whether the law requires them to be secured in a forward-facing or rear-facing car seat, and where in the vehicle they should be seated.
Though it’s not required by law, using a tether is important for keeping your child safe in the event of a crash.
Most modern vehicles are equipped with a LATCH system to anchor your car seat to the vehicle and prevent a front-facing car seat from flipping forward. Check your vehicle’s manual for information on how to properly use the anchor and tether systems when installing your car seat.
New Jersey Car Seat Laws for Babies
In New Jersey, babies that are under the age of two (unless they weigh over 30 pounds) are required to be secured in an approved rear-facing child safety seat equipped with a five-point harness.
|Age||Birth to Age 2|
|Weight||Up to 30 pounds|
|Car Seat Type||Infant-only seat or Convertible in rear-facing position|
|Seat Direction||Rear-facing only|
|Harness Straps||Five-point harness system|
A five-point harness, when fitted properly, gives babies and small children the best possible protection in the event of a collision. These harness straps go over the child’s shoulders, across the hips, and buckle between the legs.
However, it’s important to know that your specific car seat manufacturer may have a certain height or weight limit that’s different from what’s required by New Jersey law. You will want to make sure that your child hasn’t grown too big for their seat, as an improperly fitted car seat may offer less protection.
New Jersey Car Seat Laws for Children
Once a baby outgrows their infant car seat, you’ll need to change the seat’s positioning (if it’s a convertible or all-in-one) or purchase a seat that’s designed for your growing child.
Children that are between the ages of two and four and weigh between 30 and 40 pounds must be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat equipped with a five-point harness until they reach the seat’s upper limits for rear-facing placement.
At that point, the child must be secured in a forward-facing child safety seat equipped with a five-point harness.
|Age||2 – 4|
|Weight||30 – 40 pounds (varies by seat manufacturer)|
|Car Seat Type||Convertible or 3-in-1|
|Seat Direction||Rear-facing or front-facing (depends on seat’s limits)|
|Harness Straps||Five-point harness system|
Children must continue to follow the guidelines for babies and small children until they reach age eight and are at least 57 inches tall. If they outgrow their car seat according to the upper height and weight requirements, they can switch to a belt positioning booster seat.
So, in New Jersey it’s possible to deviate from the age and height guidelines if your car seat manufacturer recommends that you move on to the next stage and change the car seat’s position or switch to a booster seat.
Booster Seat Laws in New Jersey
New Jersey requires children to stay in their car seat for as long as possible, and the age guidelines for transitioning from a car seat to a booster seat are older than what’s designated in many other states. Still, the law leaves room for you to deviate from their guidance and follow the recommendations of your car seat’s manufacturer.
Children aged four to eight must be secured in a car seat until they reach the upper height and weight limits for the seat, then they must be secured in a belt positioning booster seat until they reach age 8 and are 57 inches tall.
Experts recommend keeping your child in their forward-facing car seat as long as possible, as it is safer and more secure than a booster seat and will provide the best protection in the event of a car accident.
You should always place your booster seat in the vehicle’s back seat to ensure the safest ride for your little passenger.
|Weight||40-100 lbs. (check booster seat’s specifications)|
|Car Seat Type||Belt-positioning booster seat|
|Seat Belt||Must be used with both lap belt and shoulder belt if available|
When Can a Child Stop Using a Booster Seat in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, children under the age of 8 are required to be restrained in a child safety seat or belt positioning booster seat. A child can stop using a booster seat when they reach 8 years of age and are at least 57 inches tall.
However, the law also states that children over the age of eight must be properly secured by a seat belt. If the child is older than eight but the seat belt does not fit their body properly, then they should continue to sit in the booster seat a little longer.
A properly fitted seat belt will lay snugly across the top of the child’s thighs, not across their stomach.
An easy way to know if the lap belt is in the correct position is by comparing it to the child’s shorts or pants pockets. A properly positioned lap belt crosses in the pants pocket area. The shoulder strap should be firmly across the child’s shoulder and chest, not on their neck or face.
If the belt is not properly positioned on their body, it’s not going to protect them correctly, or the belt itself could cause an injury.
Another factor you should consider is the child’s maturity level. Think about whether they can be trusted to sit properly in the seat without playing with the seat belt or buckle, and whether you know for certain that they won’t disengage the buckle. If you’re not 100% confident, then it may be a good idea to keep them in the booster seat until they’re a little older.
The Seat Belt Fit Test
Before allowing a child to fully transition from a booster seat to an adult seat belt, you should perform the seat belt test on any child that’s under the age of 13.
Step One: First, have the child sit so that their back is all the way against the vehicle’s seat back. The child’s knees should bend naturally over the edge of the seat. If the legs are straight and the knees are not bent over the edge, the child is not tall enough and should continue to use a booster seat. If the knees are bent properly, move on to the next step.
Step Two: Buckle the seat belt with the lap belt firmly across the upper thighs. If the lap belt is properly positioned across the thighs (in the pant’s pocket area), move on to step three. If the lap belt is across the stomach or not across the upper thighs, the child should stay in the booster seat.
Step Three: Check the shoulder belt’s positioning. If it’s cutting into the side of the neck, across the neck, or on the face, the child should continue to use a booster seat. Never put the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the child’s back. If the shoulder strap is properly positioned across the shoulder or collarbone, move on to the last step.
Step Four: Check the child’s posture while they’re sitting and throughout your car ride. If they can continue to sit in the correct upright position for the duration, they can safely ride with a seatbelt. If they start to slouch, lean, change the belt’s position, or you notice that the belt has moved across their face, neck, or stomach, they should remain in a booster seat until they can pass all four steps of the seat belt fit test.
When Can a Child Sit in the Front Seat in New Jersey?
New Jersey law requires that children under the age of eight be properly secured in the rear seat of the vehicle.
There are no specifications for when a child that’s over the age of eight can move to the front seat legally, but the American Academy of Pediatrics, Center for Disease Control, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration all recommend that children remain in the back seat until they’re at least 12 years old.
The only exception would be for using a car seat in a pickup truck or other vehicle that does not have a back seat.
In that case, you can place the car seat or booster seat in the vehicle’s front seat, but it should be a seat without an airbag. In most modern vehicles, it’s possible to disengage the passenger airbag, which is recommended if small children are seated in the front passenger seat.
If you’re unable to disengage the airbag, be sure to position the seat as far back as it will go. Never place a rear-facing child safety seat in a passenger seat that’s equipped with an active airbag, as it could cause life-threatening injuries in the event of a collision if the airbags are deployed.
It’s a good idea to put the seat back as far as you can if a child is sitting in an airbag-equipped passenger seat, even if they’re not riding in a car seat. The force of an airbag deployment can cause significant injuries to a small child.
These are all reasons why the back seat is the safest place for a child.
New Jersey Taxi Car Seat Laws
In New Jersey, all children riding in passenger vehicles are required to be properly restrained using the vehicle’s seat belt system or an approved child safety seat or booster seat. These laws apply whether you’re driving your own private vehicle or riding in a taxi.
There are no exceptions for car seat laws when riding in a taxi or using a rideshare vehicle like Uber or Lyft.
Taxi or Uber drivers are not required or obligated to provide a car seat for your child. If you’re planning to travel through New Jersey, you’ll need to plan ahead to ensure that you have the appropriate child seat you’ll need depending on your child’s age, height, and weight.
Children do not need to ride in car seats or booster seats when they’re being transported on a school bus. However, school buses in the state are equipped with lap and shoulder seat belts.
Leaving Child Unattended Law in New Jersey
Leaving a child alone in a vehicle creates a dangerous situation where the child may be at risk for injury, death, heat stroke, dehydration, or abduction.
There is no firm age for when a child may be left alone, but there are many different factors to consider when determining if it’s appropriate to do so.
However, most experts agree that children under the age of 12 should be supervised, whether they’re home alone or left in a vehicle.
In some states, children can be left alone in a vehicle if they’re at least eight years old. The bottom line is that it depends on your child’s specific needs, abilities, and maturity level. For example, a New Jersey appeals court found that leaving a sleeping baby in a vehicle for a few minutes was unlawful based on the child’s very young age.
According to the law in New Jersey, parents are responsible for the care of their children and to avoid any situations that may put their child at risk. Leaving a child in a potentially risky situation without supervision may open the parent up to claims of neglect.
Can You Smoke in the Car with Children in New Jersey?
New Jersey doesn’t currently have any laws on the books prohibiting smoking in the car with children, but a bill was introduced in the New Jersey state senate several years back. The bill has not been passed into law, but there is potential for similar legislation in the future.
Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the American Academy of Pediatrics have written on the dangers of secondhand smoke and recommend that vehicles carrying children be smoke-free.
Penalties for Violating Car Seat Regulations
The New Jersey car seat laws are more comprehensive than other states. In fact, they are seen as some of the strictest in the country.
When a driver is pulled over and it is found they did not follow the car seat laws, they need to pay a fine. New Jersey allows police to issue a ticket with a fine between $50 and $75.
These tickets are given for motorists with no car seats. They are also given if the motorist has the wrong car seat in their vehicle. To limit your risk of paying these fines and dealing with penalties, follow the New Jersey car seat laws.
These laws are the minimum a parent must follow to be in compliance. Parents may choose to delay a transition if they feel it will keep their child safer.
Other Useful Resources
The New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety hosts voluntary child seat checkpoints at different locations throughout the state.
At the checkpoints, technicians certified in child passenger safety can check the child seat and its installation to ensure that it’s appropriate and correctly installed. Outside of the scheduled checkpoints, you can contact your county’s child passenger safety coordinator for assistance.
Assistance with Free or Low-Cost Car Seats
If you’re looking for assistance with obtaining a child safety seat, the best place to check first is with your local WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) office. They may have a free or reduced cost car seat program, or they may be able to provide assistance with obtaining other resources within your community.
Some families have been able to get help with purchasing a car seat through Medicaid. If you’re currently enrolled in Medicaid, contact them directly for help filling out an application or request form.
Some private insurance companies provide reimbursement or assistance with getting a car seat if you’re a pregnant woman or recently gave birth. Contact the customer service phone number on your insurance card to inquire with your specific insurance carrier directly.
Other places to check include your local fire station or local police station. They may know of local resources to get assistance with car seats, or at the very least, they can inspect a secondhand car seat to let you know if it seems safe for use.
Local hospitals and churches often have programs to help low-income families get items they need for new babies. Ask around and you’re likely to find someone who’s able to point you in the right direction.
Other Helpful Links and Resources
Check out these other organizations for more information related to selecting and installing the right car seat, and general child safety seat information.
New Jersey has chosen strict car seat laws to keep your child safe. Parents want the best for their children and these car seat laws help them do that.
Following the New Jersey, car seat laws make it easier to keep your child safe. Car seats keep your child safe from collisions and prevent them from moving around while the vehicle is moving.
With safety as your number one concern, the New Jersey car seat laws will help you reach your goals of safety.