Ohio Car Seat Laws

Ohio Car Seat Laws

Parents and guardians do everything they can to make sure their children are safe. Unfortunately, you can’t predict how other drivers will behave when you get behind the wheel with your child. This is why installing the correct child restraint system in your vehicle is so important. 

Not only do the various child safety seats come with their own guidelines, but Ohio also has laws in place to help keep your children safe while riding in car seats and booster seats. In this post, the Cleveland personal injury attorneys from Joseph Law Group will explain Ohio’s car seat laws regarding rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats. 

Ohio Revised Code § 4511.81

Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.81 establishes the guidelines that should be followed regarding a child’s car restraint system. These Ohio car seat laws state that any child under four years of age or 40 pounds should ride in a car seat that meets federal safety standards

According to Ohio’s car seat laws, children four to eight years old and those under 4 feet 9 inches are required to sit in a booster seat that meets the federal safety guidelines. Your child should remain in a booster seat until the seat belt fits properly over them. This means they could stay in a booster seat past eight years old until the seat belt fits right without the seat.  

If your child is not in the correct safety seat, you could face fines between $25 to $75 per offense. Following the first offense, you could be charged with a misdemeanor in the fourth degree. Fines paid for child safety seat offenses are given to the Child Highway Safety Fund, which purchases child safety seats as part of the Ohio Buckles Buckeyes (OBB) Program. This program provides car seats and booster seats for low-income families throughout Ohio. 

Federal Car Seat Safety Guidelines

The federal guidelines regarding child safety seats will vary depending on the child’s age and size. The sizes and types of car seat your child rides in will grow with them. Rear-facing car seats are recommended for children starting at birth, and they can remain in them until three or four years old unless they outgrow the seat. Depending on what comes first, the child’s age or size will determine when they move from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat. 

Similarly, when the child can transition from a forward-facing car seat to a booster seat will depend on their age and/or size. The guidelines on the child safety seat will list the maximum weight and age for the seat. Once your child has met the maximum size for their seat, they can move up to a booster seat. Being familiar with the height and weight guidelines for your child’s particular car seat is important. Ensuring the seats fit within your motor vehicle is also important since child safety seats can vary in size and shape. 

Rear-Facing vs. Front-Facing Car Seats

Rear and forward-facing car seats are created to protect a baby or child based on their size. This is why following the guidelines set forth by the federal safety standards is essential, as rear-facing seats protect smaller babies and children more than front-facing seats. 

An infant or convertible car seat is made to face the back of the vehicle, hence the name rear-facing. All children should start in rear-facing seats. This position protects the spinal cord that has not finished developing and provides more support to the neck, head, and spine. If in a motor vehicle accident, the rear-facing seat will absorb the impact and protect the child from harm. 

Once children are too big to ride in a rear-facing seat, they can move to a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness. A forward-facing car seat still provides more protection than just a seatbelt, but it doesn’t protect the neck, head, and spine as much as a rear-facing seat. This is why it’s important to review the guidelines for weight and height provided by the car seat manufacturer before changing your child’s car seat. If you move your child to a front-facing car seat before they’re big enough, their head, neck, and spine could be severely injured if involved in a car accident. 

Rear-facing seats are safer because they protect children from accidents. These seats cradle the child and take the brunt of impact while keeping their head, neck, and spine properly aligned. Car accidents can be devastating even for adults, so imagine the impact your child is susceptible to when placed in the wrong seat. In fact, research shows that children’s survival rates in car accidents are higher when they’re in a properly installed rear-facing car seat.  

What are the Booster Seat Laws in Ohio?

Seat belts are made to protect adult-sized bodies from impact when involved in a car accident. They only work when properly secured across the chest and body frame. For certain children, seat belts are not enough to protect them in the event of a car accident. As such, child booster seat laws in Ohio require children between the ages of 4 and 8 to ride in a booster until they reach at least 4 feet 9 inches in height. 

When children get too big for child safety seats, they must move to a booster seat until the seat belt fits over their body correctly. If a seat belt doesn’t fit, the child can suffer severe stomach, spine, and neck injuries. Sadly, many individuals in Ohio don’t have their children in booster seats. For example, in 2007, a study by the Partners for Child Passenger Safety found that only 18% of children in Ohio between the ages of 4 and 8 were in booster seats, which was one of the lowest rates in the United States at the time. 

The Ohio car seat law states that children must remain in a car seat until they meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Booster seat age: 8 years old
  • Booster seat height: 4’9″
  • Booster seat weight: Depends on the seat

When Can a Child Sit in the Front Seat in Ohio?

Ohio’s child safety laws do not state a specific age that a child can sit in the front seat. However, Ohio state law enforces adult seat belts for children between 8 and 15 years old. Since Ohio law doesn’t specify the age at which a child can ride in the front seat, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until a child has reached 13 years of age before allowing them to sit up front. This age recommendation helps protect those children that are too big for booster seats and are big enough for their seat belts to fit correctly. Even if your child is big enough and old enough to ride in the front seat, researchers agree that the backseat is still the safest place for children to sit. 

Car Seat Recommendations 

Choosing the right car seat for your child can be overwhelming. Luckily, the National Heath Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has created guidelines for you to follow to help make the process easier. The NHTSA recommends the following:

  • Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size. Once you’ve narrowed the choices, pick a car seat that will specifically fit your vehicle.
  • Refer back to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions. They will provide height and weight limits for the car seat. Also, reference the manual when installing the car seat to ensure all anchors, tethers, etc., are installed correctly. 
  • If your child is within the manufacturer’s recommended height and weight limits, keep them in the car seat as long as possible. 
  • Keep children in the back seat of vehicles until 13 years of age.

Injured in a Motor Vehicle Accident? Call the Cleveland Personal Injury Attorneys at Joseph Law Group Today

Since 2003, the Joseph Law Group has been representing Ohio residents in their personal injury claims. We provide each client with five-star level service to ensure that their rights are protected and those responsible are held liable for damages. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact the Joseph Law Group by calling (216) 522-1600 to schedule a free consultation with a Cleveland car accident attorney today.

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