New Jersey has some of the most severe and complex car seat laws in the country. They can come with fines if children are not in the right seats for their height or age. The Garden State revised its car seat law in 2015, and thousands have been faced with expensive tickets since then.
So what are the NJ car seat laws? What about booster seat laws NJ? How do you know if your child is in the right seat? Depending on their height, weight, and age, these specific New Jersey car seat laws are necessary to follow to avoid accruing any fines. Read on to learn about the right seats for your child, depending on their age.
What are the NJ Car Seat Laws?
New Jersey seatbelt laws are specified by a child’s age, height, and weight. They are specified by the Legislation – P.L. 2015, c.50, which went into effect in 2015.
While children under four years old must stay in a car seat regardless of their height or weight, children between four and eight years must reside in a car seat until they either turn eight or reach a certain height.
Here are the car seat requirements, broken down by age groups.
Infants & Toddlers Under 2 Years
State law dictates that infants and toddlers under two years old that weigh under 30 pounds need to sit in a rear-facing car seat that includes a five-point harness.
The NJ law enacted in 2015 states that children must stay rear-facing until age two because of data that shows young children are much less likely to perish in an accident if facing backward. That means even taller toddlers under two must still face the backseat, according to state officials.
Young Children Under 4 Years
For young children between ages 2 and 4 that weigh under 40 pounds, they must sit in a car seat with a five-point harness, either rear-facing or facing forward. However, in either case, they must still sit in the backseat.
Children under four are not allowed to change to booster seats in the state of New Jersey. As long as they are under four years old and 40 pounds, they must stay seated in a car seat with a five-point harness.
Children Under 8 Years
According to NJ law, children under eight years old and 57 inches must stay in a car seat. However, when they either turn eight or grow taller than 57 inches, they can move to a booster seat and use a regular seat belt. Even if the child is seven years old but is 58 inches, they can still use a booster seat instead. According to state officials, at that point, it does not matter how much they weigh.
Children Over 8 Years
Any child that is 8 years or older or stands at 57 inches or more must be securely seated with their seatbelt fastened. Their seatbelt should fit them properly, with the lap belt sitting across their upper thigh and the collarbone and chest, not digging into the neck.
If the seatbelt does not fit properly or your child slouches and cannot maintain the upright seating position, keep them in a booster seat until they are tall enough for the belt to rest suitably.
Penalties for Failing to Comply in New Jersey
Since New Jersey changed its car seat policies in 2015, the police have given 6,257 tickets related to children under 8 years old sitting in either the wrong car seat or seated without their belt, according to records from the state’s Department of Law.
The fines associated with car seat violations fall between $50 to $75. It is higher than it was under the old law, where fines were between $10 to $25. Despite the laws becoming stricter with higher fines, there has been a 12% decrease in car seat fines since the new law went into effect.
The only vehicle exclusion is for school buses. No other passenger cars with seat belts, including limos and rideshares, are exempt from the booster seat laws NJ.
New Jersey has some of the most restrictive car seat laws compared to other states. When it went into effect in 2015, it forced some families to make some big changes and keep their young children rear-facing for longer.
If you are unsure how your child should be seated in the car, parents can go to free child safety checkpoints at various places in every county to see which seat their child needs. On New Jersey’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety website, there is a schedule posted where you can make an appointment or find a time to walk in for a one-on-one inspection of your child’s car seat.
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about New Jersey’s car seat laws.
There is a seat belt test that all children under 13 years old can try. Sit them right against the backseat and see if their knees naturally bend at the edge. If they do, move to the next step.
Put on their seat belt. The lap belt should rest on the upper legs. If it does, check that the shoulder belt is sitting on their collar bone without digging into their neck. If the belt rests on their shoulder, see if your child slouches or does not sit correctly and upright with the seat belt on.
If your child fails any part of this seat belt fit test, have them ride in a booster seat until they can meet all of the steps.
You may own a sports vehicle, truck, or another car that does not have a back seat. In this case, your child would ride in the front seat in either a booster or car seat. However, the vehicle’s airbag on the passenger’s side must be turned off if your infant or toddler is rear-facing. If deployed, airbags can injure young children due to their force.
In New Jersey, there is no specific law dictating when a child 8 years or older can move up to the front seat. However, it is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that children do not move to the front seat until they are 13 years old.
There are no exceptions in New Jersey law for cars other than your own, including limos, Ubers, and other passenger vehicles. Children will still need to use the same car seat they use in the family car.
School buses are one exception to the NJ car seat law. However, children in school buses must use three-point seatbelts, which all school buses are mandated to have according to the law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018.
Though children must use the lap and shoulder belts while riding in a school bus, they do not need to use car seats or booster seats.