Delaware Car Seat Laws

Current as of March 2024

Delaware Car Seat Laws: What Every Parent Needs to Know

As a parent in Delaware, your child's safety in the car is always top of mind. Following the state's car seat laws is not only a legal must, but also one of the best ways to protect your little ones on the road. We've broken down the key points you need to know to ensure you're using the right car seat correctly every time you buckle up.

Delaware Car Seat Requirements by Age and Size

Delaware law requires all children under 8 years old or 65 pounds to be properly secured in a child restraint system (car seat or booster). The specific type of seat depends on your child's age, height, and weight:

  • Infants (under 2 years AND under 30 lbs): Must ride in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Toddlers (2-4 years AND 30-40 lbs): Can ride in a forward-facing car seat with a harness once they outgrow the rear-facing seat.
  • Young Kids (4-8 years AND 40-65 lbs): Must use a forward-facing seat or booster seat.
  • Older Kids (8+ years OR 65+ lbs): Can use a booster seat until the vehicle's seat belt fits properly, typically when they reach 4'9" tall.

Remember, all kids under 12 should always ride in the back seat - it's the safest place in the car. Following these guidelines can significantly reduce the risk of serious injury or worse in a crash.

Choosing and Installing the Right Car Seat: Tips and Tricks

Picking the right car seat for your child is the first step, but proper installation is just as crucial. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Choose a seat that fits your child's current age, height, and weight.
  • Make sure the seat is compatible with your vehicle and fits properly in the back seat.
  • Opt for a seat that is easy for you to use and install correctly every time.
  • Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible (at least age 2), as this offers the best protection.

Installing your car seat doesn't have to be a hassle. Always follow these steps:

  1. Read both your car seat and vehicle manuals thoroughly before you begin.
  2. Place the seat in the back, facing the correct direction for your child's age and size.
  3. Secure the seat tightly with either the vehicle's seat belt or LATCH system. It should not move more than 1 inch side-to-side or front-to-back when tugged at the belt path.
  4. Adjust the harness to fit snugly against your child's body, with the chest clip at armpit level.

Still unsure if your seat is installed 100% correctly? Delaware offers free car seat checks where certified technicians can double check your work and offer guidance. It's a quick and easy way to get peace of mind.

Penalties for Breaking Delaware Car Seat Laws (and Why They Matter)

In Delaware, police can pull you over and issue a ticket if they spot a child passenger who is not properly secured in a car seat or booster. Fines start at $25 and can go up for repeat offenses - but the real cost is the risk to your child's safety.

Car crashes are a leading cause of death for kids in the U.S. Using the right car seat can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. So while skipping the seat or booster might seem easier in the moment, it's never worth the potential price.

Your Delaware Car Seat FAQs, Answered

Still have questions about car seat safety in Delaware? We've got you covered:

Q: What if my child is over 8 or 65 lbs but too small for just a seat belt?

A: Keep them in a booster seat until the belt fits properly, no matter their age. The lap belt should lie flat across the upper thighs (not the belly) and the shoulder belt should cross the chest (not the neck).

Q: Are there any times my child can legally ride without a car seat?

A: Delaware law allows a few rare exceptions, like in taxis or if all belts are already in use. But if you have a belt available, you must use a car seat or booster - no excuses.

Q: Where can I go for help if I can't afford a car seat?

A: Delaware offers some assistance programs for low-income families to get free or discounted seats. You can also check with local hospitals, police/fire stations, or community organizations to see if they offer car seat programs.

The bottom line for Delaware parents is simple: always secure your child in the right car seat or booster for their age and size, installed correctly every single ride. By following the state's laws and best practice recommendations, you're giving your kids the best chance of coming home safe from every trip - and that's what matters most.