For over 60 years, motor vehicle crashes were the single leading cause of death for children in the United States. Only in very recent years has firearm injuries overtaken the top place, with car crashes remaining in the leading first or second positions in the past few years of research.
Following all Pennsylvania car seat laws is a critical component in reducing the incident rates of injury and fatality in young vehicle passengers.
Some people disregard the importance of car seats for kids. But properly restraining your child in the appropriate safety device makes a difference—a big difference. Recent Pennsylvania statistics show that crash fatality rates for young children are up to seven times higher when the child isn’t in a child safety seat.
Pennsylvania Child Passenger Safety Laws
So what does the law say about how child passengers should ride safely in a vehicle? Here are the Pennsylvania car seat laws you need to know.
Birth to 4 Years
Since Aug. 21, 1993, it has been mandatory for all children aged 4 and under to be secured in a child safety restraint while sitting anywhere in a vehicle.
Pennsylvania law requires children under 4 to use a child passenger restraint system appropriate to their height and weight. All children under 2 must be secured in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the maximum weight and height limits set by the car seat manufacturer.
After 2 years, a child should be kept in a rear-facing child safety seat as long as possible. The child should only graduate to a forward-facing seat when they exceed the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer.
4 to 8 Years
Under PA law, all children between 4 and 8 years are required to be secured in a car seat or child booster seat when riding anywhere in a vehicle.
Children in this age range should continue to use a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they pass the seat’s height and weight limits. At this time, they can then be moved to a booster seat that matches their current size. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how the seat belt should be threaded through the booster seat and where the seat belt should fall on the child’s body.
8 Years and Older
Children 8 and older (up to age 18) must use a seat belt when seated anywhere in a vehicle in Pennsylvania.
Before the age of 12, children should remain in a booster seat until the car’s seat belt fits them properly. A proper seat belt fit means that the lap belt is secure across the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt crosses the shoulders and chest, not the neck or face.
No matter how old your child is, the safest place for them is the back seat. Air bags designed for adults can cause significant injuries to a child or young teen. An infant in a rear-facing safety seat should never be allowed to ride in the front seat of the vehicle, especially one equipped with passenger air bags.
It’s imperative that children are buckled at all times and placed in a functional, well-fitted safety seat appropriate to their age and size—even if you are just making a quick trip up the road. When using any child safety seat, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement in the vehicle and securing the child properly.
Pennsylvania Resources for Finding Safe Car Seats for Children
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has several resources to support parents and take the confusion out of equipping your child with the right car safety gear. Some of these include:
- Traffic Injury Prevention Project (TIPP) Fitting Stations across PA that have certified child passenger safety technicians available to assist with car seat education, installation, and inspection
- Car seat loan programs that allow you to search for available car seats in your county
- In-person education events and webinars held regularly throughout the year
- Online resources for those looking for more information about car safety for special needs children, young driver safety, child pedestrian safety, and other topics
You can also:
- Find and compare car seats using NHTSA’s online database
- Register your car seat to receive safety updates and product recalls from the manufacturer
- Read and watch videos on car seat installation instructions through the NHTSA website
Child Car Accident Statistics
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children in the U.S. every year. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2021 Traffic Safety Facts:
- In 2021, an average of 3 children were killed, and 445 children were injured every day
- 1,184 children 14 and under died in traffic accidents in 2021
- Child traffic deaths rose by 8% from 2020 to 2021, and injuries rose by 17% during the same period
- About 25% of the children killed in car crashes lost their lives because one or more drivers were under the influence of alcohol
And in our state, the 2022 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics report shows that:
- Between 2018 and 2022, there were 23,779 children under 4 years of age involved in car crashes in Pennsylvania
- Fatality and injury rates were much higher among children who were not restrained in car seats
- Fatalities were about 7x higher among children who were not in child safety seats compared to those who were
- 83% of the children who were involved in a crash while restrained in a car seat suffered no injury
Legal Help if You and Your Child Were Injured in a Car Accident
Was your child hurt or wrongfully killed because of another driver’s negligence? Losing or watching a child suffer injuries is an unimaginable trauma that no parent should have to experience.
If your family underwent a preventable tragedy at the hands of a negligent motorist, contact an experienced Williamsport car accident lawyer from Stapp Law, LLC.
Our legal team will do everything we can to make sure your family recovers the justice you deserve. Our compassionate law office has been fighting for the rights of traffic accident victims of all ages for many years. We understand what kind of advocate you need in your corner right now.
Our case consultations are always free to those who need sound legal advice. Schedule a no-obligation case evaluation by phone or online today.