2005-07-08 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

New Law Controls Baby Car Seats
By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Audrey PhefferAudrey Pheffer A new law that went into effect on March 27, 2005, raised the age requirement of children who will be required to be restrained in child safety seats while traveling in motor vehicles. Previously, only children under the age of four were required to use child safety seats.

The new law mandates that children ages four, five, and six who are less than four feet, nine inches tall be correctly restrained in an approved child restraint device that meets federal safety standards and is attached to the vehicle using either a safety belt or a universal child restraint anchorage system.

Children under the age of four who weigh more than forty pounds may be restrained in a booster seat with a seat belt.

Under the law, children may not ride without a child restraint device until they are seven years old and at least four feet and nine inches tall.

Approved child restraint devices include booster seats and child safety seats; a vehicle’s safety belt is not an approved child restraint device.

Infants must remain in rear-facing car seats until they are at least one year old and weigh more than twenty pounds.

After children are too heavy to use a rear- facing car seat, they should ride in front- facing child safety seats with a five- point harness system.

These seats are suitable for children weighing less than forty pounds. When a child weighs more than forty pounds, he or she may use a booster seat in conjunction with a safety belt, including the shoulder harness. Booster seats should not be used with lap belts only.

Booster seats can generally accommodate children weighing up to eighty pounds.

It is important to note that all motor vehicle passengers must use safety belts when riding in the front seat, regardless of age, and all under the age of sixteen must wear safety belts when seated in a back seat.

It is very important that the child meet both the height and weight requirements for their child restraint device in order to maximize the effectiveness of the device. In order to be sure that the seat is appropriate for the child and to ensure proper use, be sure to consult the child safety seat instruction manual.

The child safety seat should be snugly secured by the vehicle’s safety belts to maximize protection, and the harness straps should lay flat against the child’s body to keep the child in the seat. In order to achieve this, the harness retainer clip should be placed at armpit level.

In order to prevent possible injury, it is also extremely important that a child in a rear-facing car seat never be placed near an active air bag; the safest place in a car for a child is in the center of the back seat.

Consult your vehicle owner’s manual and your child safety seat instruction manual to learn more about transporting your child safely in your car.

To learn more about the new law or about effectively using child safety seats, please visit the New York State Troopers’ webpage at http://www. troopers.state.ny.us/ or the website of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Commission’s website at http://www.safeny.com/. This webpage includes a list of child safety seat fitting stations where you can go to ensure that you are using the seat correctly and that it is appropriate for your child.

You may also access this information by calling the Governor’s Traffic Safety Commission at (518) 437-7708.

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