If you have a child in the car, you need to make sure you’re following Ohio’s laws about car seat laws. Ohio has laws regarding when children should ride rear-facing when they can switch to forward facing car seats, when they can switch to a booster seat, and when they don’t have to use a seat at all.
We’ll cover these rules, and the penalties for violating them, your options if you can’t afford a car seat or booster seat, and some other frequently asked questions about Ohio car seat laws.
Ohio Car Seat Laws Changes for 2019
There are no changes to the Ohio car seat laws for 2019; all the information in this article is current as of October 7, 2009, and applies to pick-up trucks as well as regular cars. Current law states:
- Children less than 4 years old and 40 pounds need to use a safety seat that meets Federal motor vehicle safety standards.
- Kids under 8 years old who have outgrown safety seats but still don’t fit in the seat belt properly need to use a booster seat until they’re at least 4 feet 9 inches tall.
- Children 8 to 15 years old need to use a child safety seat or safety belt.
Rear-Facing Car Seat Law
Ohio law says that children should ride rear-facing as long as possible. The rear-facing position is safer than forward facing. They should ride rear-facing for at least the first year and can stay rear-facing up to 4 years of age. They should stay in a rear-facing seat until they reach the highest height and weight for the seat.
Forward-Facing Car Seat Law
A child can ride forward-facing once they outgrow the rear-facing car seat, and until they’re four years old and weigh 40 pounds.
Booster Seat Law
Children who are between 4-8 years old and under 4’9” in height need to ride in a booster seat.
Penalties for violating Ohio car seat law
- First offense: A fine anywhere from $25 to $75 for the first offense.
- Subsequent offenses are considered misdemeanors, meaning the driver could serve up to 1 year of jail time and/or pay up to $1000 fine, plus court costs. The exact amount of the fine and/or duration of jail time are up to the judge.
What to do if you can’t afford a car seat in Ohio?
If you can’t afford a car seat, Ohio has a program called Ohio Buckles Buckeyes. This program provides child safety seats and booster seats to eligible low-income families in all counties in Ohio to ensure all families have a car seat for their child, even if they can’t afford them. They have Occupant Protection Regional Coordinators (OPRCs) who provide the following services to the different sites:
- Give technical assistance to the local sites in their regions
- Help them carry out the programs, and provide training and education.
- Help coordinate and evaluate them the programs
- Ensure that the local sites comply with their program requirements.
- Help coordinate check-up events and establish fitting station sites in the local communities.
- Run 32-hour certification courses for technicians These important courses help provide trained technicians to all communities for check-up events, fitting stations, and Ohio Buckles Buckeyes sites.
Besides providing car seats and booster seats, the program also educates parents on child passenger safety.
To qualify for the program, the family’s income must fall within the guidelines for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program; however, they need not receive benefits to qualify.
They need to attend a class provided by local CPS staff, where they’ll learn how to use the car seat for their child and install it in the vehicle. To find out more about the program, interested parents can call 800-755-GROW
Children with Special Needs – Ohio Car Seat Laws
Easter Seals of Northern Ohio has a program called the special KARS (Special Kids Are Riding Safe) program to help kids who can’t ride in a conventional car seat because they’re too big or small, have an injury or a disability. They provide car seats in the following situations:
- The child weighs at least 3 pounds.
- They wear a leg or full-body cast.
- Their head or trunk requires more support.
- They can’t stay in a regular car seat because they’re highly active.
Their technicians provide the following services:
Consultation – They talk to parents about the types of car seats and how much they cost, and different vendors that sell them according to the child’s size, age and why they need it.
Loan program – They lend a small amount of car seats to children who weigh as little as 3 to as much as 108 pounds for free for up to six months.
Education programs – They teach parent groups and health professionals how to put children in vehicles whether they have regular or special needs car seats or restraints.
If you live in Northern Ohio and want to find out more about this program, you can contact them at 1-888-710-3020.
Uber requires children who need a car seat to be secured in one. Parents can bring their own car seat if they choose to. Uber provides forward-facing car in some cities. However, children need to meet the following requirements:
- At least 12 months old
- At least 22 pounds
- At least 31 inches
To use these services, riders would choose the “car seat” option after they choose the UberX vehicle type. An additional $10 is added to the price for these trips. This service is only available in New York City at this time, however.
If you need to rent a car on a vacation, a few rental car companies offer car seats for their vehicles.
Hertz offers a few different car seat options depending on your child’s needs. They offer:
- Rear-facing infant car seats for children weighing up to 20 pounds.
- Forward-facing child seats for children weighing 20 to 40 pounds and not more than 40 inches in height.
- Booster seats for children weighing 40-80 pounds or those who don’t fit in an adult safety belt correctly.
Their employees don’t install car seats, but they provide instructions on how to do it. If you damage the car seat you’ll be charged a replacement fee.
If you’re a AAA member, you can rent a car seat through Hertz for free.
Avis also offers car seats for their rental vehicles – they offer rear and forward-facing car seats and booster seats. In addition, their car seats all use the LATCH system, making it easier to install the car seat.
Enterprise also rents car seats; you’ll have to contact the local branch to find out the details.
Frequently Asked Questions – Ohio Car Seat Laws
How long does my child have to ride rear-facing?
Ohio has no specific law about how long your child should stay rear-facing – check the maximum height and weight limits set by the car seat manufacturer.
Why aren’t seat belts enough?
Automakers design seat belts for adults. They can leave children at risk of serious injury if they’re in a crash and not in a car seat. Booster seats provide the following benefits:
- They boost a child, allowing the shoulder belt to lay over the strongest parts of their body.
- They also allow the lap belt to lay across the child’s upper hips and thighs instead of their abdomen.
- Without a booster seat, the belt could be on the abdomen, causing hip, abdomen or spinal cord in a crash.
Using a booster seat with a seat belt instead of just the seat belt cuts the risk of injury to the child by 59%. According to the NHTSA, over half of the children killed in car accidents would be alive today if child seat belt use was at 100%.
If your child has outgrown a car seat but is still under the height and weight limits for adult seat belts, they should ride in a booster seat.
Why was Ohio car seat law passed?
Only about 18% of Ohio parents use car seats or booster seats when their children need them – they have one of the lowest percentages in the country. In addition:
- Traffic accidents are the main reason children between the ages of 4-7 die in Ohio.
- Between 1999 and 2006, at least 34 children in Ohio died in motor vehicle crashes.
These new laws will encourage more parents to buckle their kids in car seats and reduce the risk of child fatalities.
What can I do if I can’t afford a safety seat for my child?
If you can’t afford a safety seat or car seat for your child, check and see if you qualify for the Ohio Buckles Buckeyes program described above.
How old does the child have to be to ride in the front seat?
A child has to be at least 13 years old to ride in the front seat, but all children under 16 years old must wear a seat belt, whether they’re seated in the front or the back.
At 16 years or older, the driver and the person in the front passenger’s seat must wear a seat belt. However, even children and adults in the back seat are safer buckled than unbuckled.
When can I move my child to a booster seat in Ohio?
You can move your child to a booster seat when they reach the maximum height and weight limits for the car seat. Make sure the seat belt fits properly when they’re in the booster seat, according to the description above.
At what age can the child ride without the booster seat in Ohio?
Seat belt fit is different from one car to another. As a general rule, parents should follow these guidelines:
- a child can ride without a booster seat when they’re tall enough to sit against the back of the seat and bend their knees at the edge of it without hunching over.
- The shoulder belt should line up with their shoulder and chest.
- The lap belt should be low and tight on the upper part of the thighs instead of the stomach.
- They should be able to stay in this position comfortably for the duration of the trip.
What about when my child is on a school bus?
According to the Ohio Revised Code, any vehicle over 10,000 gross vehicle weight is not required to have safety belts or child restraints – this includes most school buses. However, the law also says that daycare centers and nursery schools that have their own vehicles need to make sure they have child restraints in them that meet federal motor vehicle safety standards.
Should I take any special precautions if my child has special needs?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should take the following precautions for children with different disabilities:
Cerebral palsy is a group of problems that affect a child’s ability to maintain good balance and posture. The symptoms vary from one person to another, but can include:
- Variations in muscle tone
- Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes.
- Stiff muscles with normal reflexes
- No muscle coordination
- Tremors or involuntary movements
- Difficulty walking
It’s especially beneficial for them to ride rear-facing because if they’re in a crash, it spreads forces from it over the back of the car seat and the child’s back. This lowers the risk of spinal cord injuries.
Children with Down’s Syndrome
Children with Down’s Syndrome have a full or partial extra copy of the 21st chromosome. Their muscle tone may be poor or their joints may be loose, and the first and second vertebrae in some children with Down’s Syndrome moves easily. Most features of Down’s Syndrome are physical features, but those who have low muscle tone may benefit from using a rear-facing car seat.
There are some other considerations to look at with children with Down’s Syndrome.
- Some children with Down Syndrome need heart surgery. If your child has Down Syndrome and had heart surgery, and you’re concerned about car seat straps placing too much pressure on their chest, look for a different car seat.
- If your child slumps, add crotch rolls to prevent it.
- If they need more support on the side, consider adding foam rolls. You can also add soft padding on either side of the head. However, don’t add padding behind or under the child in the seat.
- If your child has a tracheotomy, don’t use car seats that have a tray or shield.
Children with a Spica Cast
Some children may need a special cast called a spica cast if they have certain conditions:
- Developmental dysplasia of the hip
- Unstable hips from cerebral palsy
- A traumatic injury that caused a femur fracture
It may cover both legs or part of one leg. The surgeon may tell you the width, and how much it will bend at the knee. Children in spica casts usually fit in regular car seats. If your child doesn’t fit in a regular car seat with their spica cast, consider purchasing a convertible seat that has lower sides or a wider front.
Children with Autism, ADHD or cognitive problems
Children with Autism or ADHD have social problems and may have a hard time staying still. The key features of Autism and ADD include:
- Problems interacting with others
- A strange interest in objects
- A need to follow the same routine
- Great diversity in abilities
- Under or over-reaction to one of the five senses.
- Repeated actions or body movements
- Unusual emotional reactions and expressions
Autistic children who have repeated actions may have trouble sitting still in a car seat. They may need special restraints such as harness systems or travel vests so they don’t distract the driver.
Children with a feeding tube
A child may need a feeding tube because:
- Their mouth or esophagus is abnormal
- They have difficulty swallowing or keeping food down.
- They don’t get enough nutrition or fluids orally
Conditions that can cause them to have trouble eating include cerebral palsy and motor neuron disease. Feeding tubes can cause additional challenges with riding in a car seat.
If your child has a feeding tube, make sure the car seat doesn’t rub against it. When choosing one, consider the location of the feeding tube and whether it bulges above the skin. When choosing a car seat for a child with a feeding tube, you’ll need an emergency plan to replace the tube in case it comes out.
Children with hydrocephalus have a lot of cerebrospinal fluid built up. This may cause them to have an unusually large head. If this is the case, a rear-facing car seat that can tolerate a higher weight may help them. Also, consider choosing a car seat that has more head area or a forward facing seat that can be semi-reclined.
Children with a special medical condition
Children with certain special medical conditions may need a special child restraint called a car bed. These conditions include:
- Osteogenesis Imperfecta
- Pierre Robin Sequence
If your child was premature and can’t travel at a 45-degree angle and breathe normally, they may also need a car bed. The neonatologist or nurse practitioner will tell you if your child needs this before you leave. If your child is premature but passed the angle tolerance test in the NICU, but is still less than 5 pounds, they may be able to ride in a car seat that’s made for smaller babies.
What does the most recent car seat law for Ohio say?
According to current Ohio law passed on October 7, 2009 :
- Children under 4 years old who weigh less than 40 pounds need to federally approved safety seat.
- In addition, children under 8 years old who have outgrown safety seats need to use a booster seat until they reach 4 feet 9 inches in height. Children between 8 and 15 years old need a child safety seat or seat belt.
Important Points to Remember
This is everything you need to know about Ohio car seat laws. These laws are important because they keep children safe until they’re old enough to fit in a regular seat belt, so follow them. If you have questions, contact your child’s pediatrician or the Ohio Department of Education. If your child has special needs and you’re concerned about them riding on a school bus, contact the school or your child’s special education teacher – they may tell you what you can do.