The week of September 18, 2016 is National Child Passenger Safety Week, so it’s a great time to review current car seat laws and recommendations. Infants and children face increased risk while riding in cars compared to adults from airbag deployment and improper safety restraints. It’s important that parents or anyone carrying minor passengers be aware of the most recent safety rules and recommendations. Our guide to Virginia car seat laws in 2016 will tell you what you need to know.
The Letter of the Law
Child passenger laws in Virginia are actually quite straightforward. Children up to age eight must ride with a child restraint device that meets U.S. Department of Transportation standards. Minors over the age of eight must wear a seatbelt. There are a few qualifications included in the statute.
- Rear-facing car seats must be in the back seat of the car.
- If the car doesn’t have a back seat, the car seat can be used in the front seat only if the car has no passenger side airbag, or the passenger side airbag is turned off.
- These rules apply to all vehicles manufactured on or after January 1, 1968.
- “Taxicabs, school buses, executive sedans, or limousines” are exempt from these rules.
Choosing a Car Seat
The law may be simple, but it doesn’t provide much guidance on what type of car seat is appropriate for children of varying age and size.
- Newborns and babies should ride in a rear-facing seat until they are about a year old. Size is more important than age, though. Babies should remain in the rear-facing seat until they outgrow the seat, meaning their head is within one inch of the top.
- Forward-facing car seats should then be used until the child outgrows that seat as well. Check the height and weight limits of the seat to know exactly when that is. Choose a seat with a five-point harness rather than a tray or bar for maximum safety.
- Booster seats should be used until children turn eight or reach 40 pounds, whichever happens later.
Installing the Car Seat
Choosing the right car seat is only half the battle in keeping your child safe. The best car seat in the world still needs to be installed correctly in order to work.
- Read the instructions. Each car seat is different, so it’s important to follow the manufacturer instructions to the letter.
- Check for compatibility. Not all car seats fit every car. Make sure you are getting a seat that will work with your vehicle.
- When you have secured the child safety seat in the back seat of your car, it should not be able to move more than an inch or so in any direction if it is properly installed.
- Make sure the belt is not twisted at any point.
- Make sure the base of the car seat is at the correct angle. Many seats have an indicator to assist you.
- If your car was manufactured before 1997, you may need to use a locking clip to secure the car seat.
- To make sure your child will be safe, visit a child safety seat inspection station near you.
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