Car accidents are a leading cause of injury and death for children. In the United States, we average five deaths and almost 600 accident-related injuries every day. Many of those deaths and injuries were preventable if parents used appropriate car seats.
Like many states, Ohio opted to battle the injuries and fatalities related to car accidents by making car seats mandatory. Parents are responsible for knowing the car seat laws in Ohio, so read on to learn more about the laws and penalties.
What are Ohio Car Seat Laws?
In Ohio, child restraint laws are relatively new. First passed in 2002, Ohio last altered the child passenger safety law in October 2009. It applies to children and adolescents up to the age of fifteen but allows for different levels of protection depending on the age and size of your child.
Requirements for Infants and Toddlers
In Ohio, hospitals usually require you to present your car seat at the hospital before you can take your baby home. There are a few mandatory requirements for infants and toddlers. It’s important to note that age is not the only factor considered.
- Children younger than four years and lighter than 40 pounds must use an appropriate car seat when traveling in a motor vehicle.
- Infants and toddlers must travel in rear-facing car seats.
- Once your child meets the age AND weight requirements, it’s in their best interest to remain in the rear-facing car seat until they reach the maximum height or weight allowed by the manufacturer of your car seat.
Car Seat Rules for Young Children
According to car seat rules Ohio, when children outgrow their rear-facing car seats, you can move them to a front-facing car seat. Thankfully, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to get a new car seat, because many manufacturers make convertible options.
Once your child meets the maximum requirements for their car seat you can move them to a booster seat. When it comes to booster seat law Ohio, there’s no set rule for age or size. However, a booster seat bridges the gap between a car seat and just a seat belt.
When Can My Child Use a Booster Seat?
Booster seats raise your child so that the seat belt crosses their shoulder so that it crosses the middle of their chest properly. Since the center of the chest is the strongest part of your child’s body, it keeps them safer in the event of an accident.
Failure to use a booster seat could result in the seat belt cutting your child too high or too low. In an accident, the improperly positioned seat belt could damage their neck, hip, stomach, or spinal cord.
When Do Kids Outgrow Car Seats?
Children must use a car seat until they reach age eight or a height of 57 inches (four feet, nine inches). Once your child meets either of those requirements, they still need to wear a seat belt. Under Ohio law, children need to wear a seat belt from ages eight to fifteen. Keep in mind, that Ohio requires everyone, including adults to buckle up in motor vehicles.
When Can My Child Sit in the Front Seat?
In Ohio, children cannot legally sit in your vehicle’s front seat until they turn thirteen. Please note that if your child is small and doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, they should not ride in the front seat, even if they are thirteen. They must be able to ride with a seat belt that fits properly.
Penalties for Failure to Obey Car Seat Laws in Ohio
Currently, the car seat laws in Ohio involve fines that range from $25 up to $75 for each occurrence. That means if you have two kids who should be secured in safety seats but aren’t, you get a fine for each of them.
Why Do Ohio Car Seat Laws Matter?
Unfortunately, even with the laws in place, many parents fail to use car seats and booster seats for their children. This trend is concerning because more Ohio children die in motor vehicle accidents than due to any other cause.
Even though car seats remain an effective way to secure your child and keep them safe in the event of an accident, Ohioans don’t seem to use them enough. In fact, Ohio falls near the bottom of the list of states in terms of children ages four to eight using booster seats.
In an effort to curb the trend, Ohio passed child restraint laws to encourage parents to use car seats and booster seats. The state also established the Ohio Buckles Buckeyes program to provide proper safety seats to low-income families.
Car Seat Basics
Before we get started on specific Ohio child seat laws, let’s begin with a quick list of the different types of car seats. Knowing the difference between the seats will help you understand the laws and safety tips.
Infant Car Seats
There are several types of infant car seats to meet your needs. Many are versatile to make your life easier, including convertible car seats that can meet your child’s needs a lot longer.
Regardless of the type you choose, all infant car seats use the vehicle’s seat belt to secure the seat in your car. Some seats also use anchors for additional security and stability. Infant car seats use built-in harnesses to secure your child. The straps should fit snugly but not pinch or pressure your child.
- Rear-facing-only infant carriers generally accommodate newborns and infants. They are smaller and removable with carrying handles. You secure the carrier into a base that can be left in the car. Rear-facing only seats often fit in strollers, shopping carts, and more to make traveling with an infant easier.
- Convertible car seats function as rear-facing seats for younger children, then convert to front-facing seats as your child grows.
- All-in-one seats are the largest, most versatile option and generally meet safety needs from infancy until your child graduates out of a car seat.
Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats mean the product can meet your child’s needs at different stages. It could be a rear-facing car seat that converts to a front-facing seat or an all-in-one. While there is something to be said for choosing a convertible car seat that grows with your child, they may be too large for some newborns and infants early on.
Rear-Facing vs. Front-Facing Seats
Rear-facing car seats mean your child faces the backseat of the car. They protect your child in case of an impact. Front-facing seats should still go in the backseat, but they allow your child to face forward.
Booster seats simply raise your child off the seat so that they can use the seat belt like an adult. You can choose a high-backed booster seat that offers extra padding and head cushions or just a seat.
Ohio’s car seat laws provide guidance for keeping your child safe in a motor vehicle, but they only serve as minimum safety standards. You may want to take extra precautions, like keeping them in safety seats as long as possible and replacing any cracked pieces or worn straps.