Car Seat Safety: Your Guide to Safe Driving

By: Michael L. White, Esq & Cynthia Dort*

Without question, our children and infants are the most precious cargo that we travel with in our automobiles. As parents and guardians, we take every precaution necessary to ensure their safety, yet every year thousands of children are injured or killed in car accidents. This is primarily because three out of every four car seats are installed improperly. [1] An improperly installed car seat can lead to devastating consequences, which can impact your family forever. It is important to not only know the law, but also to understand the best safety practices for your children.

Things to keep in mind: Your vehicle’s safety belts ARE NOT considered a child restraint system; a federally approved child restraint is considered a car seat that has an internal harness system. An appropriate child restraint is considered as having a high back or no back booster. Failure to follow these laws can result in fines or other consequences.

The law in New York State requires the following:
  • Update Effective November 2019: Children from birth to 2 years of age must remain rear facing. There are 2 different rear facing seats that will allow a parent to easily comply with this law:
    • Infant Seat: This seat is used for newborns and children up to 35 lbs. in many cases. It has a base that remains in the seat, with a carry handle that allows easy removal from the base as well as putting the seat back into the base.
    • Convertible: This seat can be used rear facing for children 5 – 40 lbs. in most cases and then forward facing for children up to 65 lbs. This seat is installed and does not have a base, so you must take the child in and out of the car seat each time.
  • Children under the age of 4 MUST be restrained, or sitting in while buckled, a federally approved car seat.
  • Children ages 4, 5, 6 and 7 must be properly secured in an appropriate child restraint system and must meet the weight and height recommendations of the child restraint manufacturer.
  • If the weight of a child under the age of 4 exceeds 40 lbs., then the child may be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system.
In addition to obeying the law, the following tips can help you achieve the best practice for car seat safety:
  1. Children should remain in each car seat or booster seat until they outgrow the weight and/or height of each seat.
  2. While the law says a child at ages 4, 5, 6 and 7 can be in a booster seat, the best practice is to keep a child in a 5-point harness, as long as the child can fit with their weight and/or height.
  3. Children should remain in a booster seat until they are 4’9” or 100 lbs., this is your average 11-year-old, not 8-year-old.

If you, or someone you know, has been injured in an automobile accident, please contact the experienced attorneys of Martin Harding & Mazzotti, LLP to discuss your rights. Don’t wait, click the “Live Chat Now” button to the left or call Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP at 1800LAW1010 (1.800.529.1010).

* Cynthia Dort is the Extension Community Educator for Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension-Saratoga County. Cynthia is certified nationally and at the state level for the following: nationally Certified CPS Instructor, Alive @ 25 and Distracted Driving Instructor, and Occupant Protection Instructor. Additionally, Cynthia has spoken on the topic of safety, including car seat safety, at various locations throughout the Capital Region and has held and organized many programs designed to educate high school students.

[1] See, https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats

[2] Recommendations are based on crash data analysis and information obtained from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (“CHOPS”), National Highway Traffic Administration (“NHTSA”), Safe Kids Worldwide, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (“AAP”).