West Virginia law requires that all children under 8 years or shorter than 4’9″ must be properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat while riding in any vehicle. Failure to comply with this law can result in a fine of up to $20.
As a parent to a young boy, it’s always a big relief when I see people taking road travel safety seriously – both travelers and law enforcement officials. In West Virginia, the road safety initiatives are overseen by a highly proactive Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP). And in 2022, they announced that 92.5% of travelers in the state comply with the state’s seatbelt law, which is above the national average of 90%. Every single one of those people are making the road safer for themselves and fellow travelers.
But it’s not enough; 100% of the West Virginia residents must understand the car seat laws, comply with them, and educate themselves on the latest safety recommendations so our children are safe on the roads. In this article, let’s break down the West Virginia car seat law and see what it says about rear, forward, and booster seat restraints.
Rear-Facing Car Seat
As per the NHTSA, child safety experts—all infants and toddlers must ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years old or until they reach the maximum height and weight limit of their car seat.
Generally, the infant car seat (only rear-facing) can hold babies from 4–35 pounds and up to 30 inches tall. After that, you can switch to a convertible car seat (rear and front-facing) which will hold babies from 5–50 pounds and up to 54 inches tall.
Infant seats are always safer, as they provide more head, neck, and spine support in the event of an accident. However, a convertible car seat is the best option if you can’t afford a dedicated infant seat.
In addition, always keep the rear-facing seat in the backseat and never place it in the front seat with an active airbag.
Forward-Facing Car Seat
Once your child outgrows the infant/convertible rear-facing seat, you can change to a forward-facing car seat. The NHTSA recommends that children use this kind of seat until at least age 5 or until they reach 65 pounds and/or 4’7″ tall.
These seats come in a wide range of sizes, so the limits vary, but usually, they hold babies between 22–65 pounds. Regarding height, experts suggest that the child’s head should be at least 1 inch below the top of the forward-facing car seat.
While using a forward-facing seat, ensure you use the top tether—it helps reduce head movement and buy a seat with five-point harnesses for added safety.
Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, it’s time to switch to a booster seat. A booster seat raises your child high enough so that the car’s lap and shoulder belt can properly fit them. It’s intended for children over 8 years old who weigh between 40–80 pounds but are under 4’9″ tall.
Under West Virginia law, your child may not need to transition to a booster seat, as most forward-facing seats can accommodate the kids under this bracket. And once they are over 8, they can directly switch to the vehicle seat belt.
However, do not be tempted to skip the booster seat stage for your child’s safety. And use a booster seat until the lap and shoulder belt fit properly, usually around age 10 to 12.
Seat Belt Law in West Virginia
According to West Virginia traffic regulation law §17C-15-49, all under-18 occupants must wear a seat belt regardless of whether they’re seated in the front or back of the car. Only the front seat occupants must wear a seat belt for adults.
This means if someone is over 18 and sitting in the backseat, they are not legally required to buckle up. But of course, wearing a seat belt is always safer to reduce the risk of injury during an accident.
Taxi and Uber Car Seat Laws in West Virginia
West Virginia car seat law applies to all passenger vehicles and pick-up trucks. The “passenger vehicle” means any motor vehicle that carries up to 15 passengers, including the driver.
The law explicitly exempts vehicles operated for hire, such as taxis. But the case of ride-hailing services, Lyft/Uber is vague; there are no specific rules for them. Since most drivers register their Uber/Lyft vehicles as personal cars, the car seat law must apply to them. But if the car is properly registered as a for-hire vehicle, it’ll get an exemption from the law.
Penalties for Violating Car Seat Regulations in West Virginia
In West Virginia, the violation of car seat law is considered a misdemeanor offense. If caught, the driver can face a ticket and a fine between $10 to $20. But there are no additional points on the license and no additional court fees.
A similar offense for an adult not wearing a seat belt is punishable with a maximum fine of $25.
When can a child sit in front in West Virginia?
In West Virginia, the law requires that all children under the age of 8 be secured in an appropriate car seat or booster seat in the vehicle’s back seat unless the child is at least 4’9″ tall. However, if the vehicle does not have a back seat, or if all back seats are occupied by other children under the age of 8, a child may ride in the front seat, but only if they are secured in an appropriate car seat or booster seat.
Additionally, it’s important to follow the car seat manufacturer’s recommendations for the child’s appropriate height, weight, and age for each type of car seat.
West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program
The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) is funded and administered by the West Virginia Division of Highways. It works with many individuals, organizations, businesses, and government agencies to improve road safety.
The GHSP provides funding, technical guidance, and support to several traffic safety initiatives like car seat installation checkpoints, Child Passenger Safety Week, etc. They also offer training and resources, run campaigns and educate people about the importance of car seat safety.
So, if you are facing difficulties in buying a car seat for your kid, need help with installation, or want to know more about car safety laws, you can always contact GHSP and receive the necessary assistance.
Having a car seat is not only the law in West Virginia but also one of the most important steps to protect your child from harm during an accident. So, make sure to choose a car seat based on your child’s age and weight and get the installation checked by an expert before taking a ride.
And last but not least, don’t forget to buckle up yourself first before buckling the kids. Have a safe journey!