Best practice recommendations and the law don’t always correlate
We research and update the state laws every year. Most parents and caregivers assume the law is the safest and what is recommended by safety experts. However, this is not always the case. States’ restraint laws are the result of compromises between the “best practice” recommendations of safety experts and provisions the legislators feel are practical, enforceable, and will be tolerated by the general public and their own constituents. Occupant restraint laws should be considered to be minimum standards. The two biggest differences between what is legal vs. what is recommended are:
- The laws are based on age whereas “best practice” recommendations for the best crash protection are based on weight and physical development.
- None of these laws require all occupants be buckled up at all times in all seating positions (follow link to read exceptions).
Be aware other websites may simplify the language (and because they don’t know there are other alternatives) and just say “booster seat” for “booster aged” children though the law likely will say “child restraint system.” Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save
Colorado’s child passenger safety law is a primary enforcement action, meaning a driver does not have to be stopped for another driving offense before they can be ticketed for a violation of the child passenger safety laws. They can be pulled over for this reason alone. The child passenger safety law clearly defines child safety seat and seat belt use from birth through age 15 as follows:
- If the child is less than one year of age and weighs less than twenty pounds, the child shall be properly restrained in a rear-facing child restraint system in a rear seat of the vehicle.
- If the child is one year of age or older, but less than four years of age, and weighs less than forty pounds, but at least twenty pounds, the child shall be properly restrained in a rear-facing or forward-facing child restraint system.
- If the child weighs over 40 pounds or is at least four years old, the child shall be properly restrained in a child restraint system, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (SR4K note: This would be either a forward-facing safety seat, booster seat or with a child safety belt-positioning device —like the RideSafer Travel Vest.)
- A child who is at least eight years old but less than 16 (SR4K note: Of course those 16 and older should be properly restrained as well) must be properly restrained with a safety belt or child restraint system. Proper use of a safety belt means the shoulder belt, if present, crosses the shoulder and chest and the lap belt crosses the hips, touching the thighs.
Illinois — (625 ILCS 25/4 Child Passenger Protection Act)
- Children under the age of 8 years shall be secured in an appropriate child restraint system. Child restraint system meaning any device which meets the standards of the United States Department of Transportation designed to restrain, seat or position children, which also includes a booster seat. SR4K note: The RideSafer Travel Vest qualifies for children 3 and older. See best practice recommendations.
- Parents of children under the age of 8 shall provide an appropriate child restraint system to any other person who transports their child.
- Children weighing at least 40 pounds may sit in the back seat of a vehicle with a lap-only belt if there is not a lap-shoulder belt available.
There is more information about Illinois law and a list of fitting stations here. SR4K note: although the manufacturer of the RideSafer® Travel Vest is based in Chicago, Illinois, perhaps the people who put this web site together have not yet been introduced to it as they only use the language “booster seats” rather than including information about alternatives.
(Some websites said it was statute 307.182 but we couldn’t find any such statute. Of course those sites also change the language of the law to say “booster seat” instead of “child passenger restraint system”.)
- Children less than four years of age, regardless of weight, shall be secured in a child passenger restraint system appropriate for that child. SR4K note: The RideSafer Travel Vest qualifies for children 3 and older. See best practice recommendations.
- Children weighing less than forty pounds, regardless of age, shall be secured in a child passenger restraint system appropriate for that child.
- Children at least four years of age but less than eight years of age, who also weigh at least forty pounds but less than eighty pounds, and who are also less than four feet nine inches tall, shall be secured in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat appropriate for that child.
- Children at least eighty pounds or children more than four feet, nine inches in height shall be secured by a vehicle safety belt or booster seat appropriate for that child.
- A child who otherwise would be required to be secured in a booster seat may be transported in the back seat of a motor vehicle while wearing only a lap belt if the back seat of the motor vehicle is not equipped with a combination lap and shoulder belt for booster seat installation. SR4K note: Or you can use a RideSafer with the lap-only belt and a tether or EATAL accessory.
- Children up to age 4 or less than 40 pounds be restrained in a child restraint system that meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
- Children less than 8 years of age and less than 4 foot 9 inches in height and don’t meet above criteria are required to be in a booster seat that meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. (This is addressed in our comments below.)
- Children at least 8 through 15 years of age must be properly restrained in a child restraint system or in an Occupant Restraining Device as described below.
- An Occupant Restraining Device is defined as seat safety belt, shoulder belt, harness, or other safety device for restraining a person that satisfies the minimum the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. 4513.263
- The above doesn’t apply to children riding in taxicabs or public safety vehicles.
SR4K note: Although the RideSafer® is a belt positioning device like a booster, it is not technically a booster seat. (The RideSafer brings the seat belt down to the child versus “boosting” them up.) If we (and law enforcement) were to strictly interpret this law as it is written, EVERY child who is over four years old and over 40 pounds who is less than eight years of age and less than 4 feet nine inches in height would be REQUIRED to be in a booster seat even though there are many conventional 5 point harness car seats rated by their respective manufacturers to properly restrain children who weigh over 40 pounds regardless of age. Are we to assume that the legislative intent is to require the use of boosters even for these children who would be considered “properly restrained” in a 5 point harness? We are stuck in a situation where those writing the law are not child safety seat experts but lawyers and sometimes miss the mark on what they are intending to accomplish. Safe Kids Ohio also interprets it as “booster seat or other appropriate child safety seat.” The RideSafer Travel vest, by the definition of the Ohio revised code 4513.263, IS an Occupant Restraining Device. The RideSafer vest has been crash tested to meet the federal standards which are outlined in (FMVSS 213) and performs quite well. The federal government does not specify design criteria but rather performance criteria leaving it up to manufacturers to self-certify their product meets the federal standards. This is true of ALL car seats and booster seats. In the end, there is a judgement call as parents/caregivers when the letter of the law does not allow us to implement newer technology despite the fact that they may well be as safe or safer for our children. It is our opinion that IF you were pulled over and the officer was attempting to cite you as being in violation of Ohio revised code 4511.81, if you pointed out that the RideSafer Vest is FMVSS 213 compliant (found on the labeling) that would suffice to convince the officer you are educated and using a compliant Occupant Restraining Device per Ohio revised code 4513.263 and federal crash test standards and you are, in fact, properly restraining your child. The challenge that we are facing is that the vest is a relatively new concept (certified for use in the USA since 2004) and the legislatures do not know there is technology that is newer than, and in some ways better than, the protection offered to children by “booster seats”.
Oregon — (ORS 811.210(2)) [You’ll have to scroll down the page a ways]
- Children must remain in a rear-facing child restraint until they are one year of age AND 20 pounds.
- Children who weigh 40 pounds or less must be properly secured with a child safety system that meets the minimum standards and specifications established by the Department of Transportation under ORS 815.055 [which simply describes child restraint systems which meet FMVSS 213 standards] for child safety systems designed for children weighing 40 pounds or less. SR4K note: The RideSafer has been meeting or exceeding FMVSS-213 crash test requirements since 2004 for children who are at least 30 pounds.
- Children who weigh more than 40 pounds and are 4’9″ or shorter must be properly secured with a child safety system that elevates the person so that a safety belt or safety harness properly fits the person. As used in this paragraph, “properly fits” means the lap belt of the safety belt or safety harness is positioned low across the thighs and the shoulder belt is positioned over the collarbone and away from the neck. SR4K note: Although the law states the child must be elevated as in a booster seat, it also clearly states in subsection (3)(b) (as seen below in second exception bullet) as long as a child is properly secured in a child safety system which meets FMVSS 213 (such as the RideSafer) this requirement does NOT apply. Plus the RideSafer is a harness system which makes the seatbelt “properly fit” the child as intended by the law.
- Unless the rear seat of the vehicle is not equipped with lap-shoulder belts, then the child may be secured with a lap belt
- OR if the child is properly secured with a child safety system that meets ORS 815.055 (see above) for children weighing more than 40 pounds.
- Children who are taller than 4’9″ OR 8 years of age must be properly secured with a safety belt or safety harness.
For more information on Oregon Child Passenger Safety programs, click here.
Texas — (Sec. 545.412 Texas Transportation Code)
While the Texas Department of Public Safety often uses the language “booster seat” in their description of the law for “booster”- age children, the actual complete child seat law states as follows:
- Any child younger than 8 years of age must be secured in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety seat system. Paragraph number f1 describes “child passenger safety seat system” as an infant or child passenger restraint system that meets the federal standards for crash-tested restraint systems as set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. SR4K note: The RideSafer Travel Vest qualifies for children 3 and older. See best practice recommendations.
- In such a case as a child is under 8 years of age but at least four feet and nine inches in height, the child may use the vehicle seat belt.
While the Utah Safety Council states the law correctly, they use the language “booster seat” in their answers to their FAQs. Paragraphs ii and b state the following:
- The operator of a motor vehicle operated on a highway shall provide for the protection of a person younger than eight years of age by using a child restraint device to restrain each person in the manner prescribed by the manufacturer of the device. SR4K note: The RideSafer Travel Vest qualifies for children 3 and older. See best practice recommendations.
- Children younger than eight are not required to be in a child restraint if they are at least 57 inches tall. At that point, they should use the lap-shoulder belt.
Other common international destinations: