Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of unintentional deaths for children under 16 in the United States. Child restraints, such as car seats, booster seats, and seat belts, are the most effective way to prevent fatalities in the event of a car crash. Yet, the Bureau of Highway Safety estimates that as many as 3 out of every 4 children in child restraints are not properly secured. Some children aren’t in restraints at all!
Consistent and proper use of child restraints is the best way to ensure child passenger safety.
Maine’s Child Passenger Safety Law
Maine’s Child Passenger Safety (CPS) law includes strict height and weight requirements that correspond to specific types of child restraints. More specifically, the law says:
- Children under 40 lbs. must ride properly secured in a child safety seat
- Children between 40 – 79 lbs. who are less than 8 yrs. old must ride secured in an approved child restraint system
- Children taller than 4 feet 9 inches who no longer use a child restraint system must wear a seat belt
- Children under 12 yrs. old who weigh less than 100 lbs. must be secured in the rear seat of the vehicle, if possible
In addition to these laws, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends a few other considerations for child passenger safety:
- Children less than 12 months old should always ride in a rear-facing seat
- Rear-facing car seats are best until a child reaches the top height or weight limit permitted by a car seat’s maker
- A shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest, not cross the neck or face. Use a booster seat if necessary
- Children should ride in the backseat to avoid injury caused in the airbag deployment zone
Penalties for Failing to Follow Car Seat Laws
Drivers who fail to follow the laws regarding child car seats may be subject to fines:
- $50 for a first offense.
- $125 for a second offense.
- $250 for a third offense.
Drivers violating the law also may receive points on their license.
Maine’s car seat requirements don’t apply to passengers over 1 year of age if:
- The vehicle is driven by an individual age 21 or older.
- There are more passengers than seats in a vehicle.
- All seat belts are in use.
Assistance for Parents and Caretakers
Parents, guardians, and caretakers are the first line of defense when it comes to child passenger safety. A car accident can happen in the blink of an eye; make sure your child is protected:
- Always buckle young children into their seat belts, car seats or booster seats.
- Require that older children and teens always wear seat belts, even for short trips.
- Buckle children into the middle back seat when possible; it’s the safest spot.
- Always use child restraint systems according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Never position a rear-facing child car seat near an airbag.
The Bureau of Highway Safety offers several locations around the state of Maine where people can make an appointment with a certified car seat technician for car seat installation assistance and education about child passenger safety. Maine also offers car seat distribution locations for income eligible families who wish to obtain a car seat but can’t afford one.
Lead By Example
Every year, thousands of people die in the U.S. because they didn’t buckle up. In 2016, a total of 146 motor vehicle fatalities were reported in Maine by the Department of Transportation. Maine has what’s called a universal seat belt law. With very limited exceptions, everyone is required to buckle up. Maine also has primary enforcement, which means that a driver may be pulled over and ticketed for not wearing his/her seatbelt.
According to the Bureau of Highway Safety and the Maine Department of Transportation, drivers aged 16 to 20 have the highest rate of annual crashes; drivers aged 21 to 24 have the highest rate of annual fatalities. Children observe and mimic adult behavior. It is important to set a good example for young passengers, who will become teen drivers.
Maine’s Child Passenger Safety Law and universal seat belt law are mandatory regulations designed to keep everyone safe on the road. If adults lead by example and always remember to buckle up, the next generation should grow up understanding and respecting these laws.
Regardless of good intentions, car accidents still happen. It’s important for victims of negligent drivers, drunk drivers, or distracted drivers to have the necessary resources to put their lives back together.
To contact a Fales & Fales representative, please call us or fill out the form on this page.