Car Seat Laws in New Jersey

In a car accident, a car seat may be all that lies between a child and a life-threatening injury. Children are more susceptible than adults to serious injuries in vehicle collisions. In an effort to reduce their vulnerability in auto accidents, all 50 states have passed laws requiring the use of child safety seats. Learn the car seat laws in New Jersey to keep your child safe.

All Child Passengers Must Use Car Seats or Seat Belts

New Jersey is notoriously tough on parents and guardians when it comes to its car seat laws. These laws are complicated and involve fines for drivers who fail to properly restrain child passengers. According to state law, all children under the age of 8 and shorter than 57 inches tall must be secured in a car seat or booster seat. Failing to buckle child passengers up in the required seats or systems can result in a fine of up to $75 per offense. It can also lead to points against the driver’s license.

It is not enough to put your child in just any car seat – you must purchase and install the correct type of seat for his or her age, weight and height. In 2015, the state revised its seat belt law to include specific recommendations for children of different ages and heights. Failing to comply with the law and abide by these regulations can result in steep fines. After passing this law, New Jersey law enforcement officers issued more than 6,000 tickets for violations.

New Jersey car seat laws

Which Car Seat Is Right for Your Child?

State law has specific recommendations for the safest way to transport a child, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Compliance with these recommendations is a legal requirement as of September 1, 2015. The law states that a child must be secured in the following ways:

A rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness. All children under the age of 2 years and 30 pounds in weight must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat that uses a five-point harness.

A forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness. Children under the age of 4 and less than 40 pounds can transition to forward-facing car seats once they reach the maximum height and/or weight limits of the rear-facing seat.

A booster seat. Once a child reaches the upper limits of the forward-facing car seat, he or she can graduate to a booster seat. This seat must lift the child to the correct position to use a seat belt. Once a child reaches the age of 8 or a height of 57 inches, he or she can switch to a standard seat belt.

Parents must follow New Jersey law and the instructions given by the manufacturer of the car seat when transitioning a child from one system to the next. If parents need assistance installing car seats, New Jersey offers free child safety seat checkpoints. All children should sit in the back seat of a vehicle unless the vehicle does not have one. In this case, the child may ride in the passenger seat, but only if the airbag is deactivated.

Can Injuries Occur From Car Seats?

Although it is possible for an injury to be caused by a car seat, statistics show that children who are buckled up are significantly less likely to suffer fatal injuries than those who are unrestrained. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 43 percent of children ages 8 to 12 who died in car accidents were not buckled up. While the straps of a car seat itself can result in injuries such as bruising or broken bones in a car accident, using a car seat is still significantly safer than having an unrestrained child passenger.