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Child Restraints: Car Seats and Booster Seats

Children are more likely than adults to be injured because they have softer bones, weaker neck muscles, and more fragile bodies. Children have larger heads in proportion to their bodies. This is why children 13 and under should ride in the back seat of a vehicle.

Child safety seats help prevent death and injury in the case of a crash. In sudden stops, unrestrained passengers keep moving at the speed the vehicle is traveling until they hit something. The majority of injuries to children are the result of being thrown into a windshield or dashboard, crushed by an adult, or thrown from the vehicle. In the event of a crash, an unrestrained child becomes like a missile that is thrown with great force.

A child safety seat is designed to:

  • Hold the child in the seat in the vehicle
  • Protect the child from being thrown out of the vehicle or from hitting something in the vehicle
  • Absorb the force of the impact
  • Spread the force of the vehicle's impact safely over the whole body
  • Prevent crushing of the child by other passengers

Alabama Child Safety Seat Inspection Stations

Four out of five children are improperly restrained in their safety seats. Get free help with your car seat by finding a certified car seat technician in your community. They can help you select the correct seat for your child and also demonstrate how to install it safely in your car. Find a child safety seat inspection station at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Alabama Child Restraint Law (2006)

"Every person transporting a child in a motor vehicle operated on the roadways, streets, or highways of this state, shall provide for the protection of the child by properly using... a child passenger restraint system." The term "motor vehicle" as used in this section shall include a passenger car, pickup truck, van (seating capacity of 10 or less), minivan, or sports utility vehicle. The fine for a citation is $25.00. The size-appropriate restraint system required for a child shall include all of the following types of child safety seats. Protect your children by changing each seat as they grow.

(1) Rear-facing only seats and rear-facing convertible seats (Infants/Toddlers)

  • all infants and toddlers should ride in a Rear-Facing Car Seat until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat's manufacturer
  • never put a rear-facing car seat in the forward facing position or in front of an active airbag
  • safety harness must be property adjusted
  • seat must be tightly anchored by the vehicle lap belt or anchorage system

(2) Convertible seats and forward-facing seats with harness (Toddler/Preschoolers)

  • all children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car seat, should use a Forward-Facing Car Seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat's manufacturer

(3) Booster seats (School-Aged Children)

  • all children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a Belt-Positioning Booster Seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.
  • use belt-positioning booster seats with lap and shoulder belts (seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest)
  • use high back booster seats in vehicles with low seat back
  • only use low back booster seats if the child's ears are below the top of the seat back when seated
  • use until the child's feet can touch the floor with knees bent at the edge of the seat and back is straight against the seat back
  • raises the child up so the safety belt fits the way it is designed for an adult passenger

(4) Seat Belts (Older Children)

  • when children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use Lap and Shoulder Seat Belts for optimal protection. All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection
  • lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest

State Milestones

Year

Law

Details

1982

Car Seat Law through age 3

Every person transporting a child under the age of three years in a motor vehicle shall provide for the protection of the child by properly using a child passenger restraint system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards.

1991

Secondary Seat Belt Law

Each front seat occupant of a passenger car manufactured with safety belts in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208 shall have a safety belt properly fastened about his body at all times when the vehicle is in motion. Failure to use safety belts is a secondary offense.

1999

Primary Seat Belt Law

Changed the 1991 Seat Belt Law by making failure to use safety belts a primary offense.

2006

Car Seat Law under the age of 15

Changed the 1989 Car Seat Law by raising the age to children required to use a child passenger restraint system to 15 years.


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