Car seat laws vary from state to state. Knowing what the laws are in your state or the state you’ll be driving to before hitting the road can avoid not only serious injury if an accident was to occur but also legal penalties.
Having your infant or child restrained properly in their car seat is the best way to keep them safe on the road. Here’s everything you need to know about Indiana car seat laws, whether you live there or will be passing through the state.
Types of Car Seats
Regardless of which state you live in, you’ll need a car seat for every stage of your child’s growth. Rear-facing car seats are designed for infants because facing away from the front is the best way to keep their spine safe in the event of an accident.
After a rear-facing car seat, many children upgrade to a front-facing one. Once they’ve outgrown their front-facing seat, they can use a booster seat that feels more like sitting in the car without child restraints.
Many people purchase individual car seats for each stage, but there are some great convertible car seats that can last your child through each stage before they’re old enough to use a seatbelt. Convertible car seats have higher height and weight requirements, so you can keep your child in one position longer without buying another car seat.
Car Seat Laws in Indiana
Keeping your child safe while you’re behind the wheel involves several things. You need to know which type of child restraint is appropriate for their age, height, and weight. Like other states, Indiana breaks down their car seat laws based on the child’s car seat. There are laws regarding rear-facing, front-facing, and booster seats for children.
The biggest takeaway from Indiana car seat laws is that any child under the age of eight must be restrained in a proper child car seat. These seats need to be in the backseat of the car for the child’s protection. You’ll find that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has different recommendations than the state of Indiana.
Rear-Facing Car Seats
In Indiana, all children under one year of age and under 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat. The NHTSA recommends keeping your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, which many parents choose. Some people can keep their child rear-facing up to three years old depending on the car seat’s specifications.
Front-Facing Car Seats
Even if your child hasn’t officially outgrown their rear-facing seat, you can legally move them to a front-facing seat in Indiana once they’re older than one year and over 20 pounds. For the child to be in a front-facing car seat, the seat must have an internal harness system for their protection.
Just because you can legally do this, if your child hasn’t outgrown their rear-facing seat, it’s safe to keep them rear-facing for longer.
Booster Car Seats
In Indiana, booster seat laws state that your child cannot transition to one until they are at least 30 pounds. If your child has outgrown their front-facing seat but is still under the weight or age requirement, you’ll need to look into a different front-facing car seat.
State troopers will recommend keeping your child in a front-facing seat until 40 pounds, but legally, you can transition your child to a booster seat at 30 pounds in Indiana.
Indiana Seat Belt Law
Wearing seat belts saves lives. When your child reaches the point that they’ve outgrown their booster seat, it’s time to transition to wearing a seat belt and no child restraint system.
A seat belt should fit snugly across the hips, and the shoulder harness should fit across the chest and shoulder. If the seat belt goes across the child’s stomach or the shoulder harness is touching their neck or face, they need to be in a booster seat appropriate for their height and weight.
These laws are in place to keep your little ones safe and sound in the car. Whether you’re making a quick trip to the grocery store or driving across the state, following these laws is crucial. If you don’t follow these laws, you could face penalties.
If a police officer or state trooper pulls you over and notices that your child is not appropriately restrained, they can get you a ticket or fine. Per Indiana state law, any violation of the car seat laws is considered a Class D infraction.
Class D infractions typically are no more than a $25 fee. A notification of this infraction will be documented on your driving record, but there will be no points listed on your license. While the fine is not that large compared to a speeding ticket, it’s still not worth putting your child in danger.
Exceptions to the Car Seat Laws
There are a few exceptions to Indiana car seat laws that are worth noting in case you find yourself in one of these situations. The most prominent exception is if your child has a medical or physical condition that would make it unsuitable for them to be restrained with a child restraint system.
If your child has a medical or physical condition, you should have a signed document from the child’s pediatrician or physician’s assistant noting the condition and why it’s impractical. It’s best to keep a copy of this in your car in case you are pulled over, so you can show it to the officer. If you don’t, you can present it to the courts directly to waive the fee.
There are other exemptions to car seat laws in the state. If the vehicle you’re in does not have a shoulder and lap harness, children can wear a single lap strap. Many cars have both a shoulder and lap strap nowadays, but this exemption is in place for older models of vehicles.
Other exemptions to the laws include if you’re riding in an ambulance or other emergency transport vehicle, a taxi, bus, or a funeral vehicle that is operating during a funeral procession. If the taxi, bus, or funeral vehicle have the option for both shoulder and lap belts, you must use them.
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for those between the ages of one and thirteen. This is why it’s so important to keep your children properly restrained when in a vehicle. Knowing and following car seat laws can help prevent serious injury and even death in the event of an accident.
Ensuring that your child is correctly restrained in a car seat that is appropriate for their height, weight, and age according to the law is one way to keep them safe while in the car.
Remember to keep your children rear-facing as long as possible, at least one year, and to only transition them to the next car seat when they’ve outgrown their current one. When transitioning your child to the next car seat, knowing the law for their age and weight can help you avoid any traffic infractions and keep your children safe.