Utah car seat laws frequently change as lawmakers do their best to protect the young bundles of joy.
If you a parent or a caregiver who resides in the state of Utah, it’s important to know the car seat laws for that state.
In this article, we’ll cover the current car seat law as well as the previous one, answer some frequently asked questions, provide information on some programs that Utah residents can utilize to pay for car seats, and wrap up with some information on laws about cell phone use while driving.
Current Utah Car Seat Laws
As of 1/1/2018:
- Every child under 8 years old must be in a child restraint device that’s being used the way the manufacturer says it should be.
- They should stay in a rear-facing car seat until age 2. After that, they should ride in a forward-facing seat that’s appropriate for their age, weight, and height.
- Once they outgrow the forward-facing seat, they should ride in a booster seat until they’re 8 years old and 57 inches tall.
- Children under 8 years old who are 57 inches tall or taller are exempt from the law. They should ride using a lap and shoulder belt without a booster.
- Children who are between 8 and 16 years old need to wear seat belts.
Previous Utah Car Seat Laws
Children age 7 and under and less than 57 inches in height needed to ride in a safety seat.
Children ages 8 to 15 who were 57 inches tall needed to wear a safety belt. The law was changed to say that children 8 and under and less than 57 inches tall needed to ride in a safety seat because lawmakers found out children’s bodies may still not be strong enough to use a regular seat belt 7 years old unless they were 57 inches tall.
As of May 5, 2008:
- The driver can be fined $45 for violating the car seat law.
- However, they’ll only receive one citation, even if more than one person is in violation of the law. That means if there are two children not buckled in car seats, the driver will still only received one fine.
Laws Regarding Special Needs Children
Special needs children still need to ride in car seats. There are places that provide special car seats for children with special needs.
If you need help paying for these car seats, Shriner’s Hospital has a program that helps families choose a car seat that’s right for them.
Shriner’s Hospital Special Needs Car Seat Clinic
Shriner’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, holds a Special Needs Car Seat Clinic two Fridays a month for families with special needs children.
Clinical professionals who are certified through the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration assess the needs of each child.
They fit the child for a car seat, educate families on proper car seat usage for each child’s specific medical need, and custom fit each car seat to the vehicle it will be used in.
Children under 18 can be referred directly to this clinic – they aren’t required to be a Shriner’s Hospital patient.
Laws Regarding Public Transportation
Public buses are not required to have seat belts on them. Utah school buses may be required to have seat belts on them soon.
The House Transportation Committee sent a bill requiring seat belts on new school buses to the full house for its consideration. At this point, though, Utah does not require seat belts on school buses.
Utah Car Seat Programs
Utah has a few programs to help parents purchase car seats for free or at a reduced cost.
The Salt Lake County Health department sells new car seats at a reduced cost to qualifying families. To qualify, families must attend a car seat class and provide proof that your income qualifies.
You must be at or below 195% of the current federal poverty level. Car seat prices fall within the following ranges, depending on your family income and the type of car seat you need:
- Convertible seat – $30 – $59
- High back booster seat – $15 – $35
- Backless booster seat – $13 – $28
- Specialty weight seat 50 – $46 – $90
- Specialty weight seat 65 – $76 – $148
For more information, call the Salt Lake County Health Department at 385-468-4100.
Cell Phone Use in Utah
Utah also has a law banning cell phone use while driving. The law allows a single swipe or tap on a device that’s mounted so the driver can see the road, and for emergency reasons or reporting hazards or crimes.
Other than that, all cell phone use while driving is banned. Drivers cannot hold a phone and talk on it while driving, even if they’re trying to get directions.
The penalties differ depending on what the driver is charged with.
- If they haven’t caused harm to anyone, they could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.
- If the negligence from their cell phone use caused serious injury to another person, or if they have a previous conviction that’s within 3 years of the current conviction, they could be charged with a class B misdemeanor. That means they could pay up to a $1000 fine and spend up to six months in jail.
Why do children need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat?
After children exceed the limits of their child restraint, they’re still not tall enough for an adult seat belt and won’t be adequately protected by a seat belt alone. The booster seat provides proper positioning, so the lap and shoulder belt will work correctly.
The type of booster seat you should select depends on the type of vehicle you have. If your vehicle has back seats that offer head support, you’ll want to purchase a backless booster seat. If you have a vehicle such as a mini-van, truck, SUV, or station wagon that has a low seat back, you’ll want to purchase a high-back booster seat.
You may also be able to find a booster seat that has a removable harness system or a removable back.
This is good if you want to use it until your child no longer needs it, or if you have a vehicle that has low seat backs, but later purchase a vehicle that has head support.
What if a vehicle has lap-only belts in the back seats?
If there are no seating positions that have lap and shoulder belts, a child may be restrained by a properly-fitting lap belt. Children should stay in a child restraint until they outgrow the harness system – this usually happens when they reach 40 pounds.
What are the exemptions to the law?
People exempt from the law are:
- Children younger than 8 years old who are at least 57 inches tall
- Children that weigh more than 40 pounds and are riding in vehicles that don’t have lap and shoulder belt positions in the back seat,
- Vehicles that aren’t required to have seat belts, such as buses and cars made before 1967.
- Children riding unrestrained when all the seat belt positions are taken
- Passengers who have written verification from a doctor that they can’t wear a seat belt for physical or medical reasons.
That’s what you need to know about the current and previous Utah car seat laws, penalties, the car seat programs available in Utah, and cell phone use laws in Utah.
It’s important to protect your precious cargo when driving them where they need to go; staying current on car seat laws helps.