NEW YORK STATE'S CHILD RESTRAINT LAW
Child Passenger Restraints Are Not An Option, They Are The Law!
- All children must be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system while riding in a motor vehicle, until they reach their 8th birthday.
- An appropriate child restraint system is one that meets the child's size and weight recommended by the manufacturer.
- The safety belt in your vehicle is not designed for children. A booster seat raises your child up so that the safety belt fits your child correctly and provides better protection.
For more information see brochure: New York State's Occupant Restraint Law or Quick Tips about the new child passenger restraint law.
On April 1, 1982 New York State's first child passenger restraint law went into effect. In 1985, New York State's mandatory seat belt law was enacted. The seat belt law includes mandatory use of a federally-approved child safety seat for children under four years of age. The focus of this page is on Child Safety Seats. For information about seat belts and air bags, please visit our Seat Belts & Air Bags Page.
Child Passenger Safety Training Program
Effective child passenger safety training is an important tool in the effort to raise awareness and convey accurate technical information about proper occupant restraint usage. Therefore, the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee provides statewide coordination for the Child Passenger Safety Training Program. GTSC maintains an up-to-date schedule of child passenger safety seat check events and classes, as well as a listing of certified technicians and instructors. And we will gladly furnish information to any agency or organization interested in conducting a training course.
There are several kinds of child passenger safety training courses available. These range from a basic three-hour awareness class introducing crash dynamics and the complexities of safety seat installation to an intensive four-day certified technician training course. A few of the training programs that are available include:
Operation Kids is the International Association of Chiefs of Police training program targeted for law enforcement to increase awareness and provide basic technical information. Its goals are to encourage law enforcement professionals to enforce child passenger safety laws and to provide a basic level of education for drivers. This course may be designed as a four-hour class, or it can be expanded up to a two-day training course.
The Certified Technician Training Course is a standardized four-day course developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and targeting those child passenger safety professionals and advocates who are responsible for educating the public about properly choosing and installing a safety seat and who want to develop the technical competence needed to participate in or conduct child safety seat clinics. This comprehensive course includes hands-on training, as well as two field-based child safety seat checks. After successfully completing this course, participants will be certified to teach child passenger safety awareness training classes and the non-certified technician course.
Where to Find Course Information
You will find available training courses listed in our Child Passenger Safety Training Class Calendar. To get more information about these training courses, or if you have questions about the program, please contact the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee.
- The law requires children under the age of four to be restrained in a federally approved car seat when riding in a motor vehicle [Section 1229-c(1), NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law].
- If the weight of a child under the age of 4 exceeds 40 pounds, the child may be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system, allowing the child to use a booster seat. Children ages 4, 5, 6 and 7 must be properly secured in an appropriate child restraint system, one for which your child meets the weight and height recommendations of the child restraint manufacturer. [Section 1229-c(1), NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law] A child safety seat or harness/vest or booster seat may be used. Note: As of November 24, 2009, this requirement applies to all children until their 8th birthday.
- The vehicle's safety belts are not defined as a child restraint system under this law, as safety belts are not designed for children under 4'9" and therefore, do not protect young children.
Although New York does not have a law preventing children from sitting in the front seat, it is highly recommended that all children age 12 and under ride properly restrained in the back seat. Researchers estimate that just by putting a child in the back seat instead of the front seat reduces the chance of injury and death by more than 30%.
No. Liveries, taxis, and public transportation buses are exempt from the occupant restraint law. However, children under the age of four must be restrained in a federally approved car seat while riding on a school bus [Section 1229-c(11), NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law].
Are children required to be in a car seat when riding in a recreational vehicle?
Children under the age of four riding in campers, recreation vehicles or mobile homes are required to be in a car seat.
Yes. The driver is held responsible for properly restraining child passengers under the age of sixteen, and can be fined a minimum of $25 up to a maximum of $100. The driver will receive 3 points on their driving record as well.
[See Section 1229-c(5), NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law.]
There are four basic types of child safety seats available: infant, convertible, forward-facing only and booster. The one you use depends upon the weight and height of the child. It is important to always read the child safety seat manufacturer's instructions for installation and use.
Car Seat Recommendations for Children
- Select a car seat based on your child's age and size, and choose a seat that fits in your vehicle and use it every time.
- Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer's instructions; read the vehicle owner's manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH system; and check height and weight limits.
- To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer's height and weight requirements.
- Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.
- STEP 1: Birth - up to 2 years
- Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time. Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It's the best way to keep him or her safe.
- STEP 2: 2 - 3 years
- Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness, usually around age 2.
- STEP 3: 4 - 7 years (up until the childs' 8th birthday)
- Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer. Many new seats on the market can now accommodate children to higher weights and heights. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it's time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat. Always use both the shoulder and lap belt every time with all booster seats.
NYS law requires that all children must use an appropriate child restraint system until their 8th birthday, however many children are not large enough by age 8 to begin using the adult seat belt.
- STEP 4: 8 - 12 years
- Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a adult seat belt properly, For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it's safer there, always using BOTH the shoulder and lap belt.
DESCRIPTION OF RESTRAINT TYPES
- A REAR-FACING CAR SEAT is the best seat for your young child to use. It has a harness and in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child's fragile neck and spinal cord.
- A FORWARD-FACING CAR SEAT has a harness and tether that limits your child's forward movement during a crash.
- A BOOSTER SEAT positions the seat belt so that it fits properly over the stronger parts of your child's body.
- A SEAT BELT should lie across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder and chest to restrain the child safely in a crash. It should not rest on the stomach area or across the neck.
No. Vests that meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Standard 213 are available, but they cannot be used instead of a car seat. The law specifies a seat. [Section 1229-c(1)(2), NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law.]
However, vests that meet FMVSS 213 may be used as an alternate to booster seats for children ages 4, 5, 6 and 7.
The best car seat is the one that fits your child properly, fits your vehicle correctly, and is easy to use so that you will use it correctly every time the child rides in a car. Choose a car seat that is appropriate for your child's age, size, and developmental and physical needs. The best way to ensure a proper fit in your vehicle is to try installing the child seat before purchasing.
The next step of children who have outgrown a forward-facing child safety seat is a booster seat, usually when a child weighs more than 40 pounds or grows more than 40 inches in height.
There are two major types of belt-positioning booster seats:
- Backless or low-back booster seats are used in vehicles with a high seat back in which the child's head can be supported by the vehicle seat back or head restraint.
- High-back booster seats are used in vehicles with a low seat back where there is no vehicle seat back or head restraint to support the child's head and neck.
Booster seats must be used with both the lap and shoulder belt. A booster seat should never be used with a lap belt only.
Your child should stay in a booster seat until the adult seat belt fits him or her properly. This is usually when your child reaches 4'9" in height and is about 8 years old. Please make sure that your child meets all of the following requirements for a proper seat belt fit:
- The lap belt should be low across the upper thighs or hips, not across the abdomen.
- The shoulder belt should lie across the chest and shoulder, not touching the neck or face.
- Your child should be able to sit with his or her back straight against the vehicle seat back with knees bent at the seat's edge without slouching.
- Your child should be able to ride this way for the entire trip.
You can have your child's car seat checked for correct installation by a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician at a fitting station. To find one near you, go see our list of Child Safety Seat Inspection Stations.
You can read A Parent's Guide to Playing It Safe with Kids and Cars at the safercar.gov web site or you may call SafetyBeltSafe USA at 1-800-745-SAFE.
You can call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or access the recall list for child safety seats from the safercar.gov web site at http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls/childseat.cfm.
You will find a Customer Service number in your car seat manufacturer's instructions or you can call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236. You will need to give the Customer Service representative your child safety seat's model number and date of manufacturer. This information can be found on a sticker somewhere on the car seat's plastic shell.
Your child's safety seat MAY NOT BE SAFE if:
- it has been in a crash
- it has missing parts
- it has no labels or stickers
- it is on a recall list
- it is over 6 years old
- it is not used properly
Safety tips on our site:
- Give Kids a Boost - effective March 27, 2005
- Used Child Safety Seat Checklist - If you have a used child safety seat, please follow our checklist to be sure it is safe.
- Parents Central at safercar.gov
- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
- V & T Law
- Safe Kids Worldwide
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- Recall List for Child Restraints
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- New York State Department of Health