Virginia State Law requires all children under eight to be properly secured in a child safety seat or booster seat, whatever is appropriate for their age, height, and weight. In addition, kids under two years old must be secured in a rear-facing seat.
As a fellow mother, I know how important it is to keep our children safe at all times. It’s our top priority, and we would do anything to protect them. Following car seat laws can reduce the risk of injury in a crash by 67%.
Virginia updated its car seat laws in 2019 to increase safety standards. As a mother who has experienced the fear of a car accident with her child, having a properly installed car seat is crucial.
In this blog, I’ll break down these updates and help you understand how they affect your car seat choices in Virginia.
Virginia Car Seat Laws
Here’s a quick overview of the car seat laws in Virginia:
- All kids under eight must be properly secured in a child restraint device.
- Kids must always be in the back seat until they are 8. If the vehicle doesn’t have a back seat, the child can be in the front seat if the airbag has been deactivated.
- Any person accompanying/transporting the kid will be responsible for following the car seat laws.
- Public transport like taxis, buses, and vehicles not equipped with seat belts aren’t subject to the car seat law.
July 1, 2019 Updates
The recent update to the law includes the following regulations:
- Children under two must be secured in a rear-facing child restraint device. Unless they’ve outgrown the rear-facing height and weight limits, they can be placed in a forward-facing device with a five-point harness.
- Kids must not be in the rear cargo area of the vehicle unless it is equipped with the appropriate restraints.
Virginia law also states that the seat must be appropriate, properly used, and approved by the Department of Transport. But it does not specify the height, weight limit, or type of child restrain device you should use. The law has left it up to the standard limits and regulations used by car seat manufacturers.
However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) give guidelines for properly securing a child. The official Virginia Government website also recommends these guidelines.
Virginia Child Passenger Safety Guidelines
Generally, child safety restraints are divided into four categories. Let’s see how Virginia Law applies to each one of them.
Rear-facing Car Seat:
Effective 2019, Virginia law requires that children under two years old must be secured in a rear-facing car seat. But there is an exemption for children who have reached the maximum weight or height for the rear-facing car seat as given by the manufacturer.
Now there are two types of rear-facing car seats – infant-only and convertible.
- The infant-only seat is a small, portable car seat with handles to carry your baby around. The weight limit for these seats is usually 30-35 pounds.
- The convertible car seat can be used in both rear-facing and forward-facing positions. The weight limit for these seats can be as high as 50 pounds and more.
The law also requires that a rear-facing seat be buckled in the car’s back seat since it’s much more secure there. While securing your kids, ensure they have appropriate neck and head support. Infants should especially have proper padding and support for their delicate heads.
Forward-Facing Car Seat:
Once a child has outgrown a rear-facing seat’s weight or height limit, they can switch to a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness. The weight limit for these seats is usually 40-80 pounds, depending on the model.
Usually, it last until the child is 4-7 years old. But experts repeatedly advise not to hurry to switch to a booster seat and keep the kids in the forward-facing seats as long as possible.
Always use a five-point harness since it provides better protection than other restraints. And make sure your kid is comfortable and snug in the seat and their head is at least 1 inch below the top.
Once your child has outgrown a forward-facing car seat, they can move to a booster seat. This type of seat is meant to raise the kids so that an adult lap/shoulder belt fits them properly. Booster seats are suitable for children who have reached at least 40 pounds and 40 inches in height, usually between the ages of 4 and 8.
Virginia law requires the child to be in a restraining device until age 8. However, NHTSA recommends that kids be in booster seats until they are at least 8-12 years old, over 65 pounds, or taller than 4 feet 9 inches. So even if your kid is eight years old, keeping them in a booster seat is safer if they don’t meet the car seatbelt’s standard weight and height requirement.
Car Seat Laws for Children with Special Needs In Virginia
If your child has special needs, requires a personalized restraining device not approved by the state, or cannot use any car seat restraints due to a medical condition, Virginia law gives them total exemption from the car seat law.
You only have to get a signed certificate from the licensed physician. The certificate must include the child’s identification, diagnosis, and why the child cannot be safely transported in a car seat or booster.
Make sure you carry this document with you whenever you drive with your child, as providing this document when asked may lead to a $20 fine.
Fines and Penalties for Violation
Virginia car seat laws fall under primary enforcement. This means the police do not need any other reason to pull you over and give you a ticket for violations regarding child safety restraints.
If you are caught violating the car seat law in Virginia, you could face a fine of up to $50 on the first offense. Any subsequent offense can lead to a $500 fine.
All the fine money collected goes to the Virginia Child Restraint Device Special Fund. This money provides subsidized car seats to needy families and educates the public about proper child safety restraint regulations.
Virginia Car Seats Laws for Public Transportation
Virginia car seat law exempts any public transportation and vehicles that don’t come equipped with seat belts. So the car seat law does not apply if your child is in the:
- Public bus
- School Bus
- Executive vehicles (limousine, Sedan, etc.)
- Cars manufactured before 1965
However, if you are using a car service like Uber or Lyft, you still need to follow the law as these services do not fall under public transportation. In such cases, check the company’s policies before booking a ride with small children. And if they don’t provide car seats, bring your own.
For school buses, some school districts provide special restraints for children with disabilities. Contact your child’s school to get more information regarding this.
Virginia enforces strict car seat laws for children to ensure their safety while traveling. And failure to comply with these laws can result in hefty fines. But above all, it’s the safety of your child that the state protects through these laws. So make sure you’re updated on these regulations and follow them every time you hit the road with your little one.