The road can become a terrifying place if you are a new parent. Inadequate car seats could lead to a severe injury or even death if you get in an accident. By using a child seat, you can keep your little one safe while driving. Furthermore, Montana has several laws and guidelines that enforce the use of these life-saving devices.
Do you need to learn more about Montana car seat laws? Keep reading to learn how you can keep your child safe on the road as they grow up and avoid legal penalties.
Montana Car Safety Laws
Montana child seat laws enforce car safety seats for all children aged 0-6 and weighing less than 60 pounds. You will need to install the seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure your child fits within its age, height, and weight limits.
Montana Car Seat Laws for Infants
Children between the ages of 0-2 years must sit in a rear-facing seat under Montana law. You will need to install it in your back seat to protect the child from serious injuries in a car crash.
Rear-facing car seats can be convertible or infant-only. Convertible seats have higher weight and height limits so that you can use the same seat for longer. They switch between rear- and forward-facing. Infant-only options are more portable, but you will need to get a convertible or all-in-one seat as they grow. An all-in-one seat acts as a rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seat, so you can use the same item for years.
These seats have a harness to hold your child in place, and they cradle the baby to prevent excessive stress on their spinal cord and neck. The seat’s back absorbs the intense force from a car crash to keep the infant alive.
Plenty of research on traffic accident statistics shows that passengers in the back seat are less likely to sustain injuries than those in the front, whether or not they are belted. By keeping the car seat in the back, you add an extra layer of protection for your child.
If your child matures faster and outgrows the rear-facing car seat before the age of 2, you can proceed to the next option.
Montana Car Seat Laws for Children 2-4 Years Old
Once your child grows out of the rear-facing seat, you will need to get a forward-facing seat for the back of your car. If you opt for a convertible or all-in-one option, you may not need to purchase a new seat. Make sure that your child still falls within the sizing limits for this seat.
Most forward-facing exclusive seats have weight limits for children weighing between 22 and 40 pounds. Some manufacturers will expand this range to accommodate heavier kids. If you want a customizable option but your child has outgrown a rear-facing seat, you can buy a combination one that switches between forward-facing and booster seats.
Forward-facing seats typically have a harness to protect your child. Since they face front, your kid’s legs can hang over the side as they grow. You can use front-facing seats for more time due to the orientation.
Montana Car Seat Laws for Children 5-8 Years Old
As a kid enters elementary age, Montana child seat laws dictate that you should keep them in the forward-facing seat until they outgrow its limits for weight, height, or age. Then, you can get them a booster seat for the back.
If you have either a combination or an all-in-one seat, you can switch the orientation to the booster mode. Otherwise, you can choose between high-back and backless boosters.
A high-back booster works best for small cars with low seat backings or without head supports. These can cushion your child’s head to protect their necks from sudden movement. If your vehicle has high seat backings or headrests, then you can opt for a backless booster.
Montana Car Seat Laws for Children 8-12 Years Old
Try to keep your kid in the booster seat until they outgrow it. Usually, between the ages of 8-12, when a child reaches 4’9”, they will become large enough to fit in the regular car seat.
Montana seat belt laws suggest that your child is ready to move onto the standard car seat when they can hold their back upright on the wall, their legs fully hang over the edge of the seat, the lap belt lies on their upper thighs, and the shoulder belt wraps around their shoulders and chest, not their face.
You will need to keep an eye on your child to make sure they do not displace the shoulder belt. Keeping it behind their back or underarm will leave them susceptible to severe injuries in an accident. Also, children are supposed to remain in the back seat until they hit age 13. However, there is not a definitive law saying they must stay in the back until then.
Other Montana Laws Concerning Children in Cars
Montana does not have clear laws about the use of child seats in taxis or rideshare vehicles. While you do not need to wear a seat belt in a taxi, it is recommended that you wear them when possible to protect your child in an accident.
There are no official guidelines about replacing a car seat after a crash, but the AAP recommends replacing a seat even if it does not have visible damage.
In Montana, you cannot leave your child unattended in a car as defined in the 37.95.132 Transportation (6) rule. Furthermore, negligent behavior like this can get you convicted if the child gets injured.
Smoking in the car with a kid is not outlawed, but secondhand smoke can harm your child’s lungs from a young age. Also, the detriment to your health can make you less capable of caring for your little one.
Penalties for Breaking Montana Car Seat Laws
If you violate one of Montana’s car seat laws, you can receive a fine reaching $100. Your child must remain in a car seat until the age of four. Children who weigh less than 60 pounds or are younger than 6 need to be in a booster seat or other car seat fitting for their size and installed correctly. General guidelines require only one child to be in a seat at a time as well. Breaking Montana seat belt laws will cost you up to $20.
While these are not the steepest fines, you will be putting your child’s life at risk by not following these guidelines. A police officer can rightfully pull you over if they suspect you of not using the correct child safety seats for a citation.
Montana has a Child Passenger Safety Page with more information about their guidelines concerning car seats and other recommendations for purchasing, installing, and using them.
By abiding by the Montana car seat laws, you can keep your child safe if something goes wrong and avoid legal trouble. Following the recommendations for your little one’s age and size can prevent serious injuries and death in a car crash. To make things easy, we recommend purchasing an all-in-one car seat that grows with your kid so that you can protect them for years to come.