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Pennsylvania Car Seat Laws

By: Anapol Weiss

Children are extremely vulnerable in motor vehicle collisions. In 2016, 723 children 12 and under died in U.S. car accidents. An additional 128,000 suffered serious injuries. Child safety seats and harnesses give children a much better chance of survival in a car accident. Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than 618,000 children rode in vehicles without the proper safety strategy in a single year. Like all states, Pennsylvania has car seat laws in place to help protect youth from fatal injuries. Follow these laws to keep your children safe in transit.

Children Under Eight in Car Seats

Pennsylvania General Assembly Title 75 lists the state’s child passenger protection laws. According to these laws, all drivers have a responsibility to securely fasten infants and children under eight years old in approved child restraint or booster seats. This rule applies any time a child rides anywhere within the vehicle. The back seat is the safest position for a child, but any seat with a seat belt will work. The law states unique provisions depending on the age of the child.

Children under two. Infants under the age of two must sit in rear-facing car seats until they outgrow the maximum height or weight limit according to manufacturer instructions. This is a primary law in Pennsylvania, meaning police officers do not need another reason to conduct a traffic stop. This part of the law is new as of 2016. The previous law in Pennsylvania required children under the age of four to ride in approved car seats
Children four to eight. Children four to eight years old must use properly fitting booster seats along with seat belts while traveling in vehicles. The booster seat type will depend on the height and weight of the child. A child may need to remain in a booster seat after age eight if he or she is not tall enough to safely use a seat belt. Children 8 to 18. Children between ages 8 and 18 must sit correctly in seats and use seatbelts. The child must be tall enough for the seatbelt to fit properly across the child’s chest and lap. At age 18, the child legally does not have to buckle up. However, not wearing a seatbelt as an adult is a secondary offense in Pennsylvania.

Violating Pennsylvania’s car seat laws endangers the lives of your children. It can also result in a primary offense with a fine of $75 plus court costs and administrative costs. All booster and car seats used must comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Pennsylvania has a relatively high seatbelt usage rate of 88.5% as of 2018. The state wishes to keep this rate steady by strictly enforcing seatbelt and child car seat laws.

Are You Complying With the Law?

Parents who need assistance selecting the right car seat or booster seat, or installing the device in the vehicle, can turn to community resources. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, for example, has trained technicians that provide free inspections at car seat check stations. Other community organizations near you may offer the same service. Technicians can help you purchase the correct car seat and install it properly in your vehicle. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia also offers free car seats to eligible parents who cannot afford to purchase one.

Do your best to obtain a new car seat for your child. Used car seats may contain defects or need repairs. This could render them incapable of properly protecting your child during a crash. Check national recall lists to make sure the car seat or booster seat you purchase does not have any manufacturing defects that make it dangerous. Using an approved car seat model is part of your legal duty as the parent, guardian, or driver of the vehicle. If you do not know how to strap your child into the seat, visit a checkpoint for instruction.