MITCHELL LATTOF | August 7, 2020 | Alabama Law
Alabama seat belt laws require all passengers in a vehicle to be appropriately restrained by a safety belt. However, there are special laws that apply to children and infants. Young children must ride in a car seat or booster seat.
Why Do Children Need to Ride in Safety Seats?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children in the United States. Hundreds of children die each year and thousands of children are severely injured in traffic accidents each year. Of the children who died in car accidents in 2017, over one-third of the children were not properly restrained.
Placing a child in an appropriate case seat or safety restraint reduces the risk of injury and death in a car crash. The use of a car seat reduces the risk of injury by 71 to 82 percent compared to using a seat belt alone. The use of a booster seat for children ages four to eight years reduces the risk of serious injury by 45 percent compared to using a seat belt alone.
States, including Alabama, enacted car seat laws to help protect children from the risk of injury and death in motor vehicle crashes.
What Are Alabama’s Car Seat and Booster Seat Laws?
The current laws for booster seats and car seats in Alabama became effective July 1, 2006. According to the current laws, all persons transporting a child in a motor vehicle must protect the child by providing a child passenger restraint system that meets or exceeds the federal motor vehicle safety standards and requirements.
Violations of the law can result in fines and points on the individual’s driver’s license. The child restraint laws in Alabama state:
- All children from birth to age 1 or 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing, infant-only or convertible seat
- All children age 1 or 20 pounds to age 5 or at least 40 pounds should ride in a forward-facing seat or convertible seat that faces forward
- All children age 5 or 40 pounds to age 6 must ride in a booster seat.
- Children between the ages of 6 and 15 must be in a seat belt.
Improperly installed car seats and booster seats cannot provide maximum protection for a child during a collision. Parents can get help to ensure that their child’s safety seat is installed correctly.
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) conducts a monthly car seat clinic at the State Farmers Market in Montgomery on the third Wednesday of each month. Certified child passenger safety technicians can install car seats and check to ensure safety seats are installed correctly. Call (334) 206-3359 to schedule an appointment.
Pregnant women who receive Medicaid, WIC, or other public assistance may be eligible for a free car seat. The car seat program is also available in Mobile, Huntsville, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa.
SafeKids Worldwide, some hospitals, and other organizations offer car seat inspection stations. However, some car seat inspections may be temporarily closed or have other restrictions because of COVID-19. Call ahead for information.
New Recommendations for Car Seat Safety
In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised their recommendations for car seats. Instead of limiting rear-facing car seats to two years of age, the AAP advises that children should continue to remain in rear-facing child seats as long as possible.
In other words, keep a child in a rear-facing car seat until the child reaches the maximum height or weight limits.
Children who are in front-facing car seats should remain in a car seat until the child reaches the height or weight limits for the seats. Most car seats can accommodate children up to 60 pounds. Once a child exceeds the limits of a car seat, the child should remain in a booster seat until a seat belt fits them properly.
All children 13 years of age or younger should ride in the rear seats of a vehicle, according to the AAP. For more information about child safety seats, you can visit the Healthy Children website of the AAP.
Car Accidents Involving Children
When a child is injured in a car accident, the parent or guardian may file a personal injury claim on behalf of the child.
Because the child may sustain permanent impairments or injuries that impact normal development, it is essential to work with your child’s doctor and personal injury lawyer to ensure all future damages are included in a personal injury claim.
Children injured in motor vehicle accidents can sustain traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, fractures, scarring, and other injuries that severely impact the child’s life now and in the future. Securing compensation for injuries and damages gives your child the resources he or she may need to overcome the consequences of a car accident.