What You Need to Know about Louisiana’s New Car Seat Laws
Over the past three years, 110 children and youth, from infancy to age 14, have died in vehicle crashes in Louisiana. So, it goes without saying that keeping your child safe is your top priority. But it’s also important to know the specific Louisiana car seat laws to avoid legal woes.
A new Louisiana law that takes effect August 1, 2019, is intended to keep infants and toddlers in rear-facing seats for a longer period of time and require that all children ride in the back seats of vehicles until they are teenagers.
The pre-August 1,2019 law, initially passed in 1984 and updated in 2009, is based on a simple timeline tied to the child’s age and weight. The new law considers the height and weight limits of car seats and whether a child can fit into a vehicle’s seat properly.
According to the CDC, in a year, nearly 700 children die in motor vehicle crashes. And over 100,000 are seriously injured. According to one study, more than 600 thousand children nationwide are riding without proper restraints.
Whether you’re a parent or a friend transporting the child temporarily, not following the laws isn’t an option. Car seats save lives. And they keep you from needing to deal with relentless personal injury attorneys in Baton Rouge in the event that the worst were to happen.
Let’s explore what you need to know about the law and keeping children safely secured.
Who Must Follow Car Seat Laws in Louisiana
Regardless of who you are, if you’re transporting a child, you’re required to follow Louisiana car seat laws.
If you’re visiting from another state or country, the law still applies to you.
If you’re picking a child up from preschool as a favor to a busy mom or dad, these laws apply to you.
If you’re traveling down a highway or just down a neighborhood street, you’ll need to follow these laws.
As the responsible adult, you’re expected to make arrangements to have the appropriate equipment to abide by the law. So you may need to plan ahead.
Rules vary for school bus drivers. Buses are the safest mode of transportation for children.
Louisiana Car Seat Laws
Louisiana takes child safety very seriously. They have clear guidelines regarding securing a child in a motor vehicle.
Age and Weight Requirements
This is the actual text of Louisiana’s law effective August 1, 2019:
- A child who is younger than two years shall be restrained in a rear-facing child restraint system that complies with all applicable federal regulations until the child reaches the weight or height limit of the child restraint system as set by the manufacturer;
- A child who is at least two years of age or older and has reached the rear-facing weight or height limits of the child restraint system as set by the manufacturer, shall be restrained in a forward-facing child restraint system with an internal harness until the child reaches the weight or height limit of the child restraint system set by the manufacturer.
- A child who is at least four years of age and has outgrown the forward-facing weight or height limits of the child restraint system as set by the manufacturer shall be restrained in a belt-positioning child booster seat, secured with a vehicle lap-shoulder seat belt, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- A child who is at least nine years of age or has outgrown the height or weight limits of a child restraint system or belt-positioning child booster seat as set by the manufacturer shall be restrained with the motor vehicle’s adult safety belt adjusted and fastened around the child’s body to fit correctly. The adult safety belt fits correctly when the child sits all the way back against the vehicle seat, the child’s knees bend over the edge of the vehicle seat, the belt fits snugly across the child’s thighs and lower hips, and not the child’s abdomen, and when the shoulder strap snugly crosses the center of the child’s chest and not the child’s neck.
- A child who is younger than thirteen years of age shall be transported in the rear seat of a motor vehicle, when available, in a properly used child restraint system, belt-positioning child booster seat, or adult safety belt that complies with all applicable federal regulations.
- A child who because of age or weight can be placed in more than one category shall be placed in the more protective category.
That’s pretty wordy, huh? Want a simplified version? Here you go:
- Children under 2 must ride in rear-facing child safety seats;
- Children ages 2-4 must ride in a forward-facing seat with an internal harness if they have outgrown a rear-facing seat;
- Children ages 4-9 must ride in a booster seat secured with a lap/shoulder belt; and
- Children ages 9-12 can ride without a booster seat if their knees bend over the front edge of the seat, their back is against the seat back and the seat belt crosses their chest and not their neck.
The child is to be restrained according to the instructions provided with the safety seat.
If the child is in between or doesn’t seem well secured in a seat designed for an older child, err on the side of caution as long as the child can sit comfortably in that seat.
If the number of children exceeds the number of safety devices (seats, harnesses, boosters, etc.) the unrestrained child should always be in the back seat.
If a vehicle is equipped with an activated side airbag, any child under the age of 6 weighing fewer than 60lb must sit in a rear seat unless the vehicle has none.
The laws go on to state that there are certain exceptions. As a savvy driver, you need to know what they are.
- Ambulances and other emergency vehicles are exempt.
- The driver or child is experiencing a life-threatening emergency.
- A child is physically incapable of being restrained, eg, special needs child.
Penalties for Not Following the Law
If you get pulled over for violating child safety laws, you will most likely be issued a ticket. Accompanying this ticket will be a fine in the following amounts:
- 1st offense = $100
- 2nd offense = $250-500
- 3rd offense = $500 + court costs
- Further offenses = $500 + court costs
Caveats & Exceptions
If you did restrain a child but failed to restrain the child in an age/weight appropriate seat, the maximum fine is $100. And they can’t charge you any court costs exceeding the $100 total amount.
Not restraining a child can be a primary offense, which means that an officer can pull you over for no other reason than they saw an unrestrained child in your vehicle.
If you restrained the child, but the child isn’t in an age/weight appropriate seat, this is considered a secondary offense. This means that the officer must have another reason to pull you over like:
- Expired tags
- Not using a turn signal
Once they’ve pulled you over, however, they can give you a ticket for the secondary offense even if you don’t receive a ticket for the reason that they pulled you over.
If you get pulled over and are given a ticket for a violation of Louisiana car seat laws, you cannot receive a second violation under the law for at least 24 hours.
This isn’t free reign to drive around without restraining your child.
This “grace period” is intended to allow you to take that child to a drop off location so that you can buy or place a compliant restraint device.
Insurance & License
Car seat violations are non-moving violations according to Louisiana car seat laws. Because of this, the impact on your life and pocketbook are less than something like a DWI or reckless driving.
That is excluding instances where a child gets hurt.
These non-moving violations will go on your driving record for 5 years, which your insurance company will have access to. Most companies, however, won’t raise your rates because of a non-moving violation.
Louisiana doesn’t have a license point system. In some states, you earn points for each moving and non-moving violation. If you acquire a certain number, you lose your license. This is not the case in Louisiana.
That’s good news and bad news. While you might not automatically lose your license, a judge could decide to suspend your license in an extreme case.
Child Restraint Affidavits
After receiving a ticket, you’ll have 30-days to provide proof that you have purchased the appropriate seat.
If you don’t provide this proof, your license can be suspended until you do.
If a child is injured or killed in a car accident as the result of failure to restrain, you could face additional legal ramifications if you’re at fault.
Seat Installation Assistance in Louisiana
As part of Louisiana car seat laws, the state established car seat help centers. These sites will inspect your seat, help you install it correctly and answer questions.
If you’re unsure about what your child needs, visit a location they are located throughout the state, a list of which can also be found at www.lahighwaysafety.org.
Louisiana Car Seat Laws Matter
Protecting your child from all types of car accidents whether a rear-end fender bender in at an intersection or a rollover on the highway is extremely important. If anyone will be transporting the child, make sure they know the laws. If you’re transporting a child for someone else, know that these laws apply to you.
If you or your child have been injured in a car accident in which another driver was a fault, you may be entitled to payment for damages you incurred.
We are the car accident lawyers near you in Baton Rouge that more clients trust.
If you’ve been injured, Stephen Babcock of Babcock Injury Lawyers is standing by to help you.
Your case — and your future will be our top priority. When we meet with you, we will review your case with you for free and after you hire us you will have Stephen’s 100% Client Satisfaction Guarantee.
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Call us at (225) 240-4053 or visit an office location in Baton Rouge to get a free consultation.