New Jersey Car Seat Laws

Current as of March 2024

New Jersey Car Seat Laws: What Every Parent Must Know

As a parent in New Jersey, keeping your child safe in the car is always a top priority. Following the state's car seat laws is not only legally required, 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.

New Jersey Car Seat Requirements by Age and Size

New Jersey law requires all children under 8 years old and shorter than 57 inches to be properly secured in a child safety seat or booster seat. The specific type depends on your child's age and size:

  • Infants (under 2 years and 30 lbs): Must ride in a rear-facing car seat with a 5-point harness.
  • Toddlers and Preschoolers (under 4 years and 40 lbs): Should use a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness for as long as possible.
  • School-Aged Kids (under 8 years or 57 inches): Must use a booster seat until the seat belt fits properly.
  • Older Kids (8+ years or 57+ inches): Can use a seat belt if it fits correctly across the lap and shoulder.

Remember, kids are always safest in the back seat until at least age 13. By following these guidelines, you significantly reduce the risk of serious injury or death for your child if a crash occurs.

Installing Your Car Seat Right: Tips and Tricks

Choosing the right car seat is crucial, but proper installation is just as key. Always follow these steps:

  1. Read your car seat and vehicle manuals thoroughly.
  2. Place the seat in the back (safest spot), facing the correct direction for your child's age/size.
  3. Secure the seat tightly with either the seat belt or LATCH system. It should not move more than 1 inch side-to-side or front-to-back when pulled at the belt path.
  4. Adjust the harness snugly against your child's body, with the chest clip at armpit level.
  5. For rear-facing seats, ensure the correct recline angle so your child's head does not flop forward.

New Jersey offers free car seat inspections at fitting stations statewide, where certified technicians can check your installation and offer guidance. It's a quick, easy way to double check your work and ensure your child's safety.

Consequences of Breaking New Jersey Car Seat Laws

In New Jersey, police can pull you over and issue a ticket if they see a child passenger who is not properly secured. Fines range from $50 to $75 for a first offense and may increase for subsequent violations - but the real cost is the danger to your child's life.

Car crashes are a leading cause of death for kids. Using the right car seat can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. So while it may be tempting to let them ride without the proper restraint, it's never worth the potential price.

Your New Jersey Car Seat FAQs, Answered

Still have questions about keeping your kids safe on New Jersey roads? We've got you covered:

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

A: Keep them in a booster until the belt fits right, even past age 8. The lap belt should lie across the upper thighs (not stomach) and shoulder belt across the chest (not neck).

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

A: New Jersey allows very few exceptions, like in taxis or medical emergencies. If a proper restraint is available, you must use it for kids under 8 and 57". Don't risk it!

Q: Where can I go for help with car seat installation?

A: New Jersey has many car seat fitting stations where certified technicians can check your installation and offer expert advice. Many fire/police stations, hospitals, and AAA offices also offer this service.

The bottom line for New Jersey parents is simple: always properly secure your child under 8 (or 57") in the right car seat or booster, installed correctly every single ride. By following the state's laws and best practice recommendations, you're giving your kid the best chance of coming home safe from every trip. And that's what matters most.