Child Passenger Seats

Motor vehicle crashes are the number 1 cause of death of children over the age of 6 months in the United States. The proper use of child car seats is one of the simplest and most effective methods available for protecting the lives of our young children in the event of a motor vehicle crash.

Please make sure that children are properly protected while traveling in a motor vehicle. Only the correct use of child car seats will offer the protection your child needs. So please be aware of the facts listed on this page regarding the proper use of child car seats.

There are many different types of child car seats on the market today. Each one must meet federal standards and all provide good protection for your child when used correctly. The "right" seat for you is largely a matter of personal choice. Choose a seat that fits your child and your car, read the instructions carefully, and use the seat correctly on every trip.

Correct Usage

Correct use is easy if you follow 4 steps:

  • Read the manufacturer's instructions for your car seat
  • Face the child safety seat in the proper direction
    • Infant seats always face backwards. Baby rides in a semi-reclining position facing the rear of the car.
    • Convertible seats face backwards in a semi-reclining position for infants under 20 pounds and under 1 year of age, and forward in an upright position for toddlers.
  • Secure your child snugly in the car seat.
    • Always buckle the seat's harness system securely to hold your child safely in the seat. Allow no more than 1 finger-width of slack between your child's collarbone and the harness strap.
  • Secure the child car seat with a seat belt.
    • Anchoring the seat properly with a seat belt is critical. A seat that is not buckled securely to the car can tip over, slide sideways or, in a crash, be ejected from the car.
  • Check your instruction manual to find out how to route the seat belt properly and fasten it tightly.

Protection for Children over 40 Pounds

  • A booster seat should be used only when a child has outgrown a convertible/toddler car seat.
  • When a child's shoulders grow too wide to sit comfortably in the seat, or the tops of their ears can be seen above the back of the seat, it is time to graduate to a new method of buckling up.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that children between 40 and 80 pounds use a "belt-positioning" booster seat.

Car Safety Tips

  • Never hold a child on your lap while riding in either the front or back seat.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for correct installation.
  • The center rear seat is the safest place in the car.
  • Remember: Infants face backward. Toddlers face forward.
  • Always use the car's seat belt to anchor the car seat to the car.
  • Set a good example by wearing your seat belt every time you travel.
  • All drivers and front seat passengers must wear a seat belt in New Jersey. It's the law.
  • Studies show that when children are buckled up correctly, they are less likely to be injured during a crash.
  • Put your child in a car seat every time you travel - even on short trips.
  • Never use a car seat that has been in a crash. Obtain a new car seat.
  • Use only federally approved car seats that are less than 10 years old.

Relevant New Jersey Laws

39:3-76.2a. Child passenger restraint system; booster seat, use; failure to use not contributory negligence; inadmissibility in evidence.

Every person operating a motor vehicle, other than a school bus, equipped with safety belts who is transporting a child under the age of 8 years and weighing less than 80 pounds on roadways, streets or highways of this State, shall secure the child in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat, as described in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 213, in a rear seat. If there are no rear seats, the child shall be secured in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat, as described in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 213. In no event shall failure to wear a child passenger restraint system or to use a booster seat be considered as contributory negligence, nor shall the failure to wear the child passenger restraint system be admissible as evidence in the trial of any civil action.