Keeping your child safe when you’re driving is vital. It gives you peace of mind when you are on the road and protects them from severe injuries in case of an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims car crashes are among the leading causes of death among children. However, car seats saved 325 children under four in 2017 — four in Oklahoma.
Although most parents use car seats, they may ignore whether their child is secured. As a result, approximately four out of five children’s car seats are not being used correctly, the Oklahoma State Department of Health said.
Car seats and booster seats installed correctly can reduce the risk of death in a motor vehicle crash by 71% for infants under one year and 54% for toddlers 1 to 4 years of age.
Oklahoma’s current car seat law was instituted in 2015 and hasn’t changed since. It requires that children be in car seats until they are 8 years old. They have one of the strictest car seat laws, compared to many other states that only require children under 1 to be in rear-facing car seats. In Oklahoma, children under 2 must be in a rear-facing car seat and can only be in a booster seat when they outgrow the height and weight requirements for a harnessed, forward-facing seat. The fine for not complying with the rules is $50.
Regardless of whether you live in Oklahoma or are just visiting, you should be aware of their requirements and car seat laws so you can keep your children safe and yourself out of trouble.
Car Seat Laws in Oklahoma
The current recommendation is that children use car seats that meet the federal standards according to the FMVSS213 until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall. After that, it’s safer for them to ride in the back seat until they are 13 years old.
However, as we mentioned earlier, each state has its own rules for growing children out of car seats.
Oklahoma Car Seat Laws for Babies
Oklahoma law states that children under 2 must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat.
This can be an infant or a convertible car seat. Small children should always travel in the rear-facing position and remain that way until they exceed the car seat’s height and weight limits set by the manufacturer.
Children can usually ride rear-facing in most convertible seats for at least 2 years. After that, your child might grow out of a small rear-facing-only car seat and need a bigger rear-facing convertible seat that can carry rear-facing, then forward-facing.
|Age||Birth to 2 years old|
|Car Seat Type||Infant car seat or convertible car seat|
|Weight limit||Infant car seat: Up to 22 to 30 pounds (depending on the manufacturer)
Convertible car seat: Up to 40 pounds (depending on the manufacturer)
|Seat Direction||Always rear-facing|
|Harness Straps position||Snug strap at or below shoulder level and chest clip to armpit level|
Using a rear-facing car seat is the safest way to ride with your baby because in case of a crash, the car seat cradles and moves with them, reducing the stress to the child’s neck and spinal cord. For example, if you are in a front-end car crash, your child’s head, neck, and spine will move evenly into the car seat, not away from it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that children must remain in rear-facing seats as long as possible, preferably until they reach the weight limit — regardless of their age.
It is also important to remind parents that the car seat must always be positioned in the back seat, despite this seeming obvious. Never let your child to ride in the front seat, and don’t place the car seat in a seat that has an airbag.
Oklahoma Car Seat Laws for Children
According to Oklahoma law, children can ride in forward-facing car seats once they turn 2 years old. However, it’s recommended that parents keep their child in a rear-facing position for as long as possible.
Children who have reached the rear-facing height or weight limit should switch to a forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness and top tether.
You can use this seat for a long time, up to the maximum weight or height indicated on the label. If your child’s weight reaches the weight limit for the lower attachments, you should switch to a seat belt with a top tether.
When you buy a car seat, be aware that your child may need a forward-facing harnessed seat with a greater height or weight limit before moving to a booster seat. Not every child is ready for a booster seat.
|Age||2 to 4 years old|
|Car Seat Type||Convertible, all-in-one car seat, RideSafer Vest (for children 3 years old and up)|
|Weight limit||Up to 40 pounds (depending on the manufacturer)|
|Harness Straps position||Snug strap at or just above shoulder level and chest clip to armpit level|
You may need to recline your seat to sit upright in your car but check the instructions carefully.
Always use the tether. All forward-facing seats come with tether straps. In addition, cars made after September 2000 are required by law to have tether anchors (cars, minivans, SUVs).
The tether connects to the top of the car seat. It connects to an anchor point in the vehicle, usually on the rear shelf or seat back (every car is different, so check your owner’s manual for more information).
When an accident or sudden stop occurs, tethers keep the car seat and the child’s head from moving too far forward.
You should always use a tether until your child reaches the weight limit for the tether anchor. Find out about the weight limit and where the tether anchors are located in the car seat and vehicle owner’s manual.
Booster Seat Laws in Oklahoma
When ready and after your child gets too big for the weight or height limits of the forward-facing car seat, put your child in a booster seat used with the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belt. If the top of your child’s ears reach the top of the seat and their shoulders are above the top harness slots, they need a booster seat.
Under Oklahoma law, all children younger than 8 and older than 4 must ride in a car seat or booster seat if they are not taller than 4′ 9″. Parents should use the booster seat until their child can adequately fit into a seat belt and sit properly in the back seat. Here’s a video on how to properly secure your child in a booster seat.
|Age||4 to 8 years old|
|Car Seat Type||Booster seat, RideSafer Travel Vest|
|Height limit||Until the child is 4’9” tall|
|Belt position||Lap belt is low and snug across child’s upper thighs and should belt crosses the middle of their chest and shoulder and is off their neck.|
Don’t give in to adults or even your child’s pressure to start using a booster seat. If your child hasn’t reached the limit of their forward-facing car seat, it’s better not to rush into moving them to a booster seat.
They are safer in the forward-facing car seat with a harness and top tether. Move your child only after their reach the weight or height limit. The only protection your child gets from the booster seat is a lap and shoulder belt.
Also, some Children can climb out of their booster seat if they are moved into it too soon and are not mature enough to understand the importance of staying safe while riding in the car. If your child does that, move them back into the forward-facing car seat.
When Can a Child Stop Using a Booster Seat in Oklahoma?
In Oklahoma, all children 8 years old and older or taller than 4′ 9″ should buckle up. Remember that some children may be older than 8 and shorter than 4′ 9″. In this case, wait until they reach the height limit. Also, some children will not fit properly in a seat belt until they are 12.
Children should not tuck the seat belt under their arms or behind their back because their upper body will be unprotected and are at risk of severe injury in case of an accident. Remember, seat belts are individual. They cannot be shared.
Note: Although your child no longer requires a booster seat, parents must ensure they are safely restrained with a seat belt.
The Seat Belt Fit Test
Seat belts were mainly made for adults. However, depending on your child’s height and weight, it may be uncomfortable and unsafe for them to rely only on the seat belt. To make sure your child is secure, do the 5-step booster test:
- Do their backs touch the back of the seat?
- Do their knees bend comfortably over the vehicle seat?
- Does the shoulder belt lay between their shoulder and neck?
- Does the belt lay below their hips and just above their thighs?
- Can they sit like that for the entire car ride?
If the answer is yes to all these questions, your child is ready to move beyond the booster seat. Also, make sure the seat belt lies across the middle of their chest and shoulder and is low and snug across their upper thighs — not the belly.
When Can a Child Seat in the Front Seat in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma doesn’t have specific laws and guidelines for when children can ride in the front seat, but the national recommendation is that children under the age of 13 must be in the back seat. Here’s why:
- The back seat is always safer for anyone, regardless of their age, since most car crashes happen in the front portion of the vehicle. The back seat suffers less impact in the case of a front-end car crash.
- Front seat airbags can hurt small children because they were designed for 140-pound adults wearing a seat belt. Airbags can hit children in the face, neck, head, or chest.
- Children’s bones are more fragile than adults. Children under 12 have underdeveloped iliac crests, which keep the set belt in place on the hips.
- Children can develop seat belt syndrome.
Oklahoma Taxi Car Seat Laws
Oklahoma does not require taxis to have safety belts. Taxis, Uber, and Lyft are exempt from car seat and child passenger restraint system requirements. The exemption also applies to school buses. If children are riding a school bus, they do not need to use car seats or booster seats.
Leaving Child Unattended Law in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma it is illegal to leave any child who is younger than 6 years old unattended in a car. This rule doesn’t apply if the child is accompanied by another person who is at least 12 years old and capable of handling themselves.
The fine for leaving a child unattended in a car in Oklahoma is at least $200 and at least $500 for the second violation. If the adult who left the child in a car is under the influence of alcohol, the fine starts at $1,000.
Penalties for Violating Car Seat Regulations
Oklahoma fines people at least $50 plus all court costs for not complying with car seat regulations. People will not get points on their driving record.
Can You Smoke in the Car with Children in Oklahoma?
It’s not illegal to smoke in a car with children. In addition, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend smoke-free vehicles for children.
Other useful resources
You can use the following resources to learn more about car seat inspections or for more help.
- NHTSA car seat inspection Center
- Safe Kids Oklahoma Stations
- CPS Technician Search: Find a CPS Technician
- American Automobile Association Car Seat Inspection
- Tulsa Police Child Safety Seat Check
- Monthly and Quarterly Car Seat Safety Checks in Oklahoma
- The City of Stillwater Car Seat Inspections
- City of Owasso Car Seat Safety Checks
- Chickasaw Nation child care Car Seat Safety Program
Choosing The Right Type of Car Seat In Oklahoma
Since there are many options, searching for a car seat can be overwhelming. As new types of car seats are developed, new laws are put into place, and parents need to remain informed constantly.
It makes it even more confusing when each of the 50 U.S. states has a different rule — some are stricter than others.
Here’s an overview of what types of car seats you can find:
- Infant Car Seat: Your baby will probably be using an infant car seat from newborn until they reach the age of 2 or the weight or height limit for the seat. Check the labels before buying because most people grow out of them before turning 1. Infant car seats are set in the rear-facing position and are usually portable.
- Convertible Car Seat: You need to take your baby out when you arrive at your destination. Convertible car seats can be used in the rear- and forward-facing positions.
- All-in-one Car Seat: Similar to convertible car seats, the all-in-one car seat (also 3-in-1 or 4-in-one) turns into a booster seat, saving you from buying yet another car gear for your child.
- Booster Car Seat: When your child reaches 30 pounds, they can start riding in a booster seat. However, check with your state’s car seat law what their weight requirement is before you put your child in a booster seat.
- RideSafer Travel Vest: If you don’t own a car and commute by carpool or taxi often or travel a lot, the RideSafer travel vest is a convenient solution to keep your child safe. In Oklahoma, children older than 3 can use this vest instead of a forward-facing or booster seat. RideSafer is an FMVSS 213 certified child restraint that brings the seat belt to your child’s level. Learn more about it here.
Registering Your Car Seat
Car seats come with a registration card. You should complete and mail it so that the manufacturer can notify you in case of a safety recall.
Assistance with Free or Low-Cost Car Seats
Oklahoma Highway Safety Office created a car seat program to ensure the safety of children. You can have your car seat inspected for quality at inspection stations around the state, as well as get assistance or advice about fitting it and securing your child.
Car seat assistance is available at the following locations:
- Oklahoma State Department of Health: 1000 NE 10th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73104
- OU Children’s Hospital: 1200 Mark R Everett Dr, Oklahoma City, OK 73104
- Central Oklahoma Healthy Start: 3017 N Martin Luther King Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73111
- Oklahoma Highway Safety Office: 3223 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105
The Highway Safety Office will give a free car seat to those who can’t afford to buy one.
As a responsible parent, you should ensure that your child is safe, especially when riding in the car, whether with you, a relative, or a family friend. We know car seats are not the most convenient thing, but it’s not worth it to cut corners and put your child in danger.
It prevents ejection, distributes crash forces over the child’s entire body, and protects the head and spinal cord.