The unfortunate reality is that millions of children are involved in car accidents in the United States each year. For more than roughly 1.5 million children, injuries are sustained that may have been prevented or minimized with the proper use of car seats or booster seats. Proper use includes following age, weight, and height limits. It also includes installing them properly in the vehicle. In many auto accents, even older children who no longer require a booster seat may have been safer in the second row. In fact, they may have been required by law to sit in the second row.
Has your child recently been involved in a car accident while sitting in the front seat? Did you cause an accident that resulted in injury to a child who was sitting in the front row? You understandably have many concerns related to the incident. A closer look at Pennsylvania’s child auto safety and car seat laws will help you to determine where liability lies and what penalties you may face because of the incident. However, you should always consult with an attorney to learn more about your rights and possible penalties related to a specific incident.
Pennsylvania’s Front Seat Laws
When determining if a child can legally sit in the front seat in Pennsylvania, age is the primary determining factor. Generally, children should remain in the back seat of a vehicle until they are at least 13 years old. The primary nuance to this is if the child is in a vehicle without a backseat. In one-row vehicles, a child may be permitted to legally sit in the passenger’s seat if he or she is properly restrained.
Some parents may assume that their children can sit anywhere in the vehicle safely once they are out of a booster seat, but this is not correct. Children who are between the ages of 8 and 12 years old must sit in a booster seat for as long as possible. They can only sit without a booster seat when the vehicle’s seatbelt fits properly. This will vary based on the vehicle and the child. A lap belt must fit snugly over the child’s upper thighs rather than over the abdomen. A shoulder restraint harness must sit over the child’s shoulder and chest. If the harness rests on the child’s neck, he or she should sit in a booster seat. Even when a child is out of a booster seat, the child cannot legally sit in the front seat in Pennsylvania until he or she is 13 years old.
Children will generally transition out of a booster seat sometime between the age of 8 and 12. Prior to sitting in a booster seat, the child should be in an approved car seat. Between birth and 2 years old, the child should exclusively sit in a rear-facing car seat. The child should not transition to a front-facing car seat until he or she meets the seat’s top height and weight limits. This should occur sometime between the age of 2 and 4. Keep in mind that a front-facing car seat is not the same as a booster seat, which is intended for larger and older children. Between the age of 4 to 7 years old, the child will likely reach the upper limit for the car seat’s height and weight limit. When this happens, he or she can transition into an approved booster seat. Booster seats and car seats should remain in the backseat at all times when possible.
Penalties for Violating Pennsylvania’s Child Safety Laws
All drivers in Pennsylvania are responsible for ensuring that their passengers are properly secured, and this holds true for adult passengers and for children of all ages. If you are caught violating the child car seat and auto safety laws, such as by allowing a child under the age of 13 to sit in the front seat, you may be subject to a fine of $125. Keep in mind that you will be assessed a fine of $125 for each violation. If you have two children in the car who are not properly restrained according to legal requirements, you may receive two fines. Furthermore, the driver may be subject to additional penalties if an accident occurs when a child is not properly secured according to law.
Learn More About Pennsylvania’s Child Auto Safety Laws
Do you need to learn more about Pennsylvania’s child car seat laws and front seat requirements? The legal team at Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco specializes in personal injury cases, and we are available to consult with you about your car accident lawsuit. Contact our firm today to schedule a no-hassle legal consultation with our experienced team.