Updated Car Seat Laws 2019: Louisiana, Maine, Washington - Safe Ride 4 Kids

Updated Car Seat Laws 2019: Louisiana, Maine, Washington

updated car seat laws 2019

Here are the updated car seat laws for 2019 and other state’s attempts at changing the law but did not pass. Look out for those perhaps changing in upcoming legislature sessions.

Remember the state car seat laws are generally the minimum standard for car seat use. For safer travels with your little one, familiarize yourself with best practice recommendations and perhaps visit with a local child passenger safety technician to discuss your specific needs.

Updated car seat laws 2019: Louisiana, Maine, Washington

state car seat law updatesLouisiana

Legislature changes the Louisiana car seat law (statute RS32:295) to extend the rear-facing age requirement to 2 years old and increased the requirements for remaining in a booster seat (or other appropriate child restraint). This law went into effect August 1, 2019.

What it was: Children under the age of 6 years or less than 60 lbs. must be in a child restraint system that is age and size appropriate, in accordance with manufacturers recommendations. Specifically:

  • A child who is younger than one year of age or weighs less than twenty pounds shall be restrained in a rear-facing child safety seat.
  • A child who is at least one year of age but younger than four years of age or who weighs at least twenty pounds but less than forty pounds shall be restrained in a forward-facing child safety seat.
  • A child who is at least four years of age but younger than six years of age or who weighs at least forty pounds but not more than sixty pounds shall be restrained in a child booster seat.
  • A child who is at least six years of age or weighs more than sixty pounds shall be restrained with the motor vehicle’s safety belt adjusted and fastened around the child’s body or in an appropriately fitting child booster seat in accordance with the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety belt or child booster seat.
  • A child who because of age or weight can be placed in more than one category shall be placed in the more protective category.

What it is now: All children under the age of 18 must be properly secured according to vehicle and child safety seat manufacturer’s instructions as follows:

  • Children younger than age 2 must be restrained in a rear-facing child restraint system that complies with federal standards until the child reaches the weight or height limit of the child restraint system as set by the manufacturer.
  • Children who are at least 2 or older who have reached the rear-facing weight or height limits of child restraint system must be restrained in a forward-facing restraint system with internal harness until the child reaches the weight or height limit of the child restraint system as set by the manufacturer. (SR4K notes: The RideSafer is a child restrain with an internal harness system. The vest itself is a harness and it is crash tested as a harness system with the tether strap and lap-only seat belt per standards in FMVSS 213 but also works with lap-shoulder belt and tether. RideSafer works more as a belt-positioning device with just the lap-shoulder belt.)
  • Children who are at least 4 years of age and who have outgrown the forward-facing weight or height limits of child restraint system shall be restrained in a belt-positioning child booster seat secured with a lap-shoulder belt according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Children who are at least 9 years of age and who have outgrown the weight or height limits of belt-positioning child booster seat shall be restrained with the vehicle’s seat belt adjusted and fastened around the child’s body to fit correctly. The adult seat belt fits correctly when (5-step fit test):
    • the child sits all the way back against the vehicle seat,
    • the child’s knees bend over the edge of the vehicle seat,
    • the seat belt fits snugly across the child’s thighs and lower hips (not abdomen)
    • the shoulder belt snugly crosses the center of the child’s shoulder and chest
  • Children who are younger than 13 must be transported in the rear seat of the vehicle, when available.
  • A child who because of age could be placed in more than one category shall be placed in the more protective category. (This allows the RideSafer to continue to be used.)

Maine

Bill LB42 amends statute MRS 2081. The new car seat law extends the amount of time a child needs to use a child restraint and extends the amount of time an child needs to remain rear facing. This law went into effect September 19, 2019.

What it was:

  • Children who weigh less than 40 lbs. must ride in a child safety seat that meets federal standards
  • Children who weigh at least 40 lbs., but less than 80 lbs. and less than 8 years old, ride in a federally approved child restraint system (after Feb. 1, 2005, this includes nonprofit, municipal or contracted transportation services) SR4K note: The RideSafer Travel Vest qualifies for children 3 and older. See best practice recommendations.
  • Children who are more than 8 years old and less than 18 years old and more than 4 feet 9 inches in height should be properly secured in a vehicle seat belt
  • Children under 12 years old and who weigh less than 100 lbs. must be properly secured in the back seat of the vehicle, if possible.

What it is now:

  • Children under 2 years of age shall be properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint system or convertible child restraint in a rear-facing position in accordance with the manufacturer’s and vehicle instructions. If the child has outgrown the recommended weight for the convertible seat in a rear-facing position, the child can be in a forward-facing position. (Does that mean if a child outgrows the seat by height but not by weight the child has to remain in the seat rear facing? Let’s hope not. But another example of where trying to be specific leaves out other criteria.)
  • Children older than 2 but less than 55 pounds must be secured in a child restraint system in accordance to the manufacturer’s and vehicle instructions.
  • Children less than 80 pounds, shorter than 57 inches and less than 8 years of age must be secured in a belt positioning seat in accordance with the manufacturer’s and vehicle instructions. (Again, does that mean a child who can still fit in a higher weight limit 5-point harness seat has to “graduate” to a belt-positioning seat even though the 5-point harness is safer? And does seat really mean “seat” or will a safe, legal child restraint vest be permitted as it would be in the previous group?)
  • All other children younger than 18 must be secured in a seat belt.
  • Children under 12 years old and who weigh less than 100 lbs. must be properly secured in the back seat of the vehicle, if possible.

Washington

HB 1012 updated RCW 46.61.687, the Washington state car seat law to update ages to reflect more current safety recommendations. This includes increasing the rear-facing requirement to age 2 and increasing the “booster age” to when a child properly fits the seat belt. This law goes into effect January 1, 2020.

What was it:

  • Children younger than 8 years of age, unless they are 4’9″ tall (which ever comes first), must ride in a child restraint which complies with FMVSS 213. The restraint system must be used correctly according to the car seat AND vehicle manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Children under 13 years old be transported in the back seat where it is practical to do so.
  • Children who are 8 years of age or older or 4′ 9″ or taller shall be properly restrained with the motor vehicle’s safety belt properly adjusted and fastened around the child’s body or an appropriately fitting child restraint system.

What is it now:

  • Children must be properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint system until age 2 or until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the restraint as set by the manufacturer. Children may remain in a rear-facing child restraint past the age of 2 until the child reaches the upper weight or height limit of the restraint.
  • Children who are not properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint and is under the age of 4 must be properly secured in a child restraint forward-facing with a harness until the child reaches the weight or height limit of the restraint as set by the manufacturer. Children may remain in a forward-facing harness child restraint past the age of 4 until the child reaches the upper weight or height limit of the restraint. SR4K note: The RideSafer Travel Vest qualifies for children 3 and older. Per the RideSafer manufacturer, “The RideSafer vests will continue to be compliant with Washington’s law. We are a legal harness system, meet the legal definition of ‘harness’ and will continue to be categorized in section b.”
  • Children who are not properly secured in a rear-facing or forward-facing harness child restraint and who is under 4’9″ tall must be properly secured in a booster seat. Children may remain in a booster seat until the seat belt fits properly (see 5-step fit test) which is typically between the ages of 8 and 12. SR4K note: As a harness child restraint, the RideSafer travel vest still qualifies.
  • Child restraint and booster seat systems must comply with federal standards and be used per the car and car seat manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Children under 13 years old be transported in the back seat where it is practical to do so.

Download our report: Common Car Seat Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Perhaps next year

Other states that attempted to pass car seat law changes for 2018 to extend rear facing to 2 years of age:

  • Florida: SB476 to increase the “booster seat” age to 6 (now age 5) passed the Infrastructure and Security and Children, Families, and Elder Affairs committees but was indefinitely postponed by the Rules committee. A similar bill in the House, H 567, died in the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. House Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Representative Brad Drake argued the government shouldn’t be playing parent and he didn’t intend to give the bill a hearing.
  • Texas: Texas governor vetoed HB 448 which clarified Texas car seat law to require rear-facing until age 2. The governor explained it was an “unnecessary invasion of parental rights and an unfortunate example of over-criminalization.”
  • Wisconsin: AB 622 to increase the rear-facing age limit to at least 2 years old was sent to committee in November and seems to have been dropped.

Previously passed but now in effect

New York

Back in 2017 A08100 amended Section 1229-c(1), NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law. The updated New York car seat law added specificity to the under age four section for how long a child is required to remain rear facing, increasing the rear-facing limit to 2 years old. This law finally went into effect November 1, 2019.

Previously nine states passed laws to extend how long a child is required to remain rear-facing. These include:

  • in 2015
    • New Jersey
    • Oklahoma
  • in 2016
    • California
    • Pennsylvania
  • in 2017
    • Connecticut
    • New York
    • Oregon
    • Rhode Island
    • South Carolina
  • in 2018
    • Illinois
    • Nebraska
    • Virginia

Although states have gradually been increasing the rear-facing age requirement to up to 2 years old because the American Academy of Pediatrics increased the national standard to at least age 2 back in 2011. More recently the American Academy of Pediatrics increased the standard again to what car seat experts have been expressing for years: keep the car seat rear-facing for as long as possible until the maximum height or weight allowed by the seat is reached.

Oklahoma: Tried again to pass seat belt law for older children

Legislators proposed HB 1936 to require kids between 8 and 14 to be securely fastened in a seat belt or harness while riding in the back seat. This actually used to be required in Oklahoma car seat law. In 2016 lawmakers repealed it for some reason. Although more than a thousand children in this age range were killed or badly injured in just the last 5 years, the Legislature still struggles to pass the law again. It appears the bill stalled again this year.

You can see further details, notes and the remainder of the car seat laws by state here.

By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004

Copyright 2019 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.

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