Your child’s safety, health, and happiness are the most important things in the world to you, and you’ll do everything you can to keep your child free from harm. But when it comes to the laws around car seats, do you know the facts? Getting this right could be one of the best things you can do for your children.
According to the Connecticut State Department of Public Health, over 9,000 children were tragically killed in car accidents between 2002 and 2011. The most effective way to keep your children safe in the car is to use age- and size-appropriate car restraints, such as child car seats, booster seats, and seatbelts. In states that have increased the age requirements for car seats and booster seats, child deaths and serious injuries from car accidents have reduced by 17 percent.
So, buckling up could save your child’s life. Here’s what you need to know about Connecticut car seat laws.
Child Passenger Safety Laws in Connecticut
- Children must ride in a rear-facing car seat secured by a five-point harness until they are at least 2 years old and weigh at least 30 pounds.
- Children aged at least 2 years and weighing at least 30 pounds must ride in a forward-facing car seat secured by a five-point harness until they are at least 5 years old and weigh at least 40 pounds.
- Children aged at least 5 years and weighing at least 40 pounds must ride in either a booster seat using both the lap belt and shoulder belt or a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness until they are at least 8 years old and weigh at least 60 pounds.
- Children must be at least 8 years old and weigh at least 60 pounds before they transition out of a booster seat. Best practice is to continue using the safest option for longer than the law requires.
- Children should ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old. Seat belts must be worn at all times.
If you fail to comply with these rules, you’ll be in breach of the law.
What Are the Penalties for Not Complying With Connecticut Car Seat Laws?
If you’re found to have broken any of the child passenger safety laws — in other words, if you’re found transporting a child under the age of 8 years old or weighing less than 60 pounds without a car seat or booster seat — you can be fined up to $199.
You’ll also have to attend a 2-hour mandatory Department of Motor Vehicles course on child passenger safety.
However, the penalties shouldn’t even be the main issue here. Your concern for your child’s safety should be enough to make you want to comply with the laws.
Will Getting Penalized Show Up on My Driving Record?
Yes. Connecticut’s car safety laws are more robust than those in most other states. Every time you break a child passenger safety law, it will show up on your driving record.
A first or second violation of child car safety laws is considered an infraction. A third breach is classed as a misdemeanor, which is a crime. This means it will show up on your criminal record, as well as your driving record.
Any and all infractions and/or misdemeanors will show up on your driving record, which can affect your insurance. This is because infractions or misdemeanors designate you as a high-risk driver as far as insurance companies are concerned. You’ll likely have to pay more for your car insurance, and some companies may refuse to insure you.
How to Choose a Booster Seat — and Tips for Using Them
Booster seats are extremely important for child car safety. This is because they enable the car seat belt to fit your child more effectively. Car seat belts are designed for passengers of adult size. As children are smaller, the seat belt will often be too big to keep them properly safe, unless they’re sitting in a booster seat.
Under Connecticut law, a child can’t graduate from a car seat to a booster seat until they’re at least 5 years old and weigh at least 40 pounds. However, you may want to play it extra safe by keeping your child in a car seat for longer than this. The child safety organization Safe Kids Worldwide suggests that your child shouldn’t move to a booster seat until they’re mature enough to ride without a harness. This means your child must be capable of sitting in a booster seat, with a seat belt safely fitted around their shoulder and across their lap, for the entire car journey, every time.
Choosing a Booster Seat
There are two different types of booster seat. These are:
- High-back booster seat. This is a booster seat that includes support for the head and back. This type of seat is a good option if the back seats of your car have low backs and/or no headrests, as children’s heads need support. A high-back booster can also be a better choice for children who like to sleep in the car, as it will provide more comfort. It’s worth noting that you should only ever use a booster seat in the back of the car, as children under 13 years old should not ride in the front.
- Backless booster seat. This type of booster seat doesn’t include back or head support, so it’s only suitable for you if your back seats have backs and/or headrests higher than the level of your child’s ears. Backless boosters tend to be less expensive, so they’re a good option if you’re on a budget.
It’s important to be aware of these types of booster seats, and the differences between them, so you can choose the one that best suits your child.
Using a Booster Seat
Unlike child car seats, booster seats require no installation. They simply sit on top of the normal back seat of your car. The child sits on the booster seat, which keeps it in place, and the child is then secured in place with the seat belt. The booster seat will feature arrows or other guide markings that show you where the seat belt should fit. It’s important to follow these guides so your child is properly protected while traveling in the booster seat.
Make sure the seat belt is correctly secured over your child’s shoulder and across their lap. It should fit across the bony part of the shoulder, lie flat across the chest, and fit around the lower part of the hips or their upper thighs. If your child seems uncomfortable or is tempted to put the shoulder belt under their arm or behind their back, it might be best to keep them in a car seat with a harness until they’re bigger and the seat belt can fit them better.
When your child is not in the car and the booster seat is not in use, you should fasten the seat belt around the booster seat. This means it won’t cause a hazard if you have to brake suddenly while driving.
If you’re transporting more than one child aged 8 or under and weighing 60 pounds or less, it’s important to make sure there’s enough space and enough booster seats in the car for all the children.
How Long to Use a Booster Seat
Under Connecticut car safety laws, a child must use a booster seat until they are at least 8 years old and weigh at least 60 pounds. However, this doesn’t automatically mean they’re ready to transition to using just a seat belt as soon as they hit these milestones. Your child may still be too small to use a seat belt comfortably without a booster seat. There are a few checks you can do to make sure:
- Check that their knees bend at the edge of the seat and their feet can touch the floor when their back and bottom are against the back of the seat.
- Check that the shoulder belt fits across your child’s shoulder rather than their neck.
- Check that the lap belt is a snug fit across your child’s hips or upper thighs.
It’s important to do these checks every time your child gets into a different car, as not all seats are made to the same dimensions.
If your child is uncomfortable, their feet don’t touch the floor, or the seat belt doesn’t fit properly, it’s much safer to keep using a booster seat until your child is bigger.
What if My Child Was Injured by a Defective Seat?
When you purchase a child car seat or booster seat, you expect it to keep your child safe. Yet, tragically, there are cases when things don’t work as they should, and the car seat or booster seat could actually cause a child harm.
A car seat or booster seat is classed as defective when it fails to work as it should. There are two types of defects that can occur:
- Design defects – These are faults in the seat’s design that could make it unsafe, even though the seat has been properly made with safe materials.
- Manufacturing defects – These are faults in the manufacturing process or the materials used to make the seat that could render it unsafe, even though the design is sound.
If either a design defect or manufacturing defect is present in a car seat or booster seat, this can put your child at serious risk.
There are numerous different defects that can occur as a result of poor design or manufacturing. These include:
- Defective construction, causing the seat to fall apart
- The base separating from the shell
- Flammable materials used
- Defects in the harness or sudden releases
- Buckle malfunction
- Not enough padding
Where defects are found, car seat manufacturers will usually recall all the affected products. One of the most high-profile cases of this kind was in 2013 when child seat manufacturer Graco had to recall over 4 million child car seats due to the buckles being unsafe. It was found that if any food or drink found its way into the buckle, the buckle could get stuck, effectively trapping the child in the seat unless the harness was cut. However, the recall only happened after some pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA ruled that the sticking buckle could increase the risk of personal injury to a child in a traffic accident, as children need to be able to be freed from the harness quickly.
We can see from this how a defect in the seat’s design or manufacture could present a serious risk of harm to your child. You’re relying on manufacturers to do the right thing: design and manufacture their products correctly in the first place, and put things right as quickly as possible in the event that a defect occurs.
But what if the manufacturer is unaware of the defect or has failed to recall the car seats even if they know about it? Or, what if a recall has been issued but you haven’t heard about it? Very sadly, there are cases when children are injured, sometimes seriously, as the result of a faulty car seat.
If your child has been injured as the result of a defective car seat, you should seek legal advice as early as possible. An experienced car accident lawyer will be able to advise you on the next steps to take and if you might be eligible for compensation.
Hartford Car Accident Lawyer
If your child has been injured in a car accident, including as the result of a defective car seat, Hassett & George, P.C. is here to help. As dedicated Hartford car accident lawyers, we know every aspect of the Connecticut car safety laws. We can conduct a thorough investigation of the accident, establish the facts, and fight on your behalf, whether negotiating with insurance companies or representing you in court.
Most importantly, we’re a supportive presence, here to offer support at what can be a difficult and distressing time. So, if you need us, please call our dedicated team at 860-865-0160, or contact us online, and we’ll be happy to help.
- East Hartford Connecticut Child Passenger Safety – The Traffic Division of the East Hartford Police Department is an excellent source of information about traffic laws in the state. They also provide free child car seat information and installation service for residents of East Hartford.
- Safe Kids Worldwide – This global non-profit organization works tirelessly with partners in 33 countries around the world to keep children safe from preventable injuries. They do this through raising awareness with families, advocating for improved child safety laws, and creating safer environments.