In 2012, more than half of teens who died in car crashes nationwide were not wearing seat belts.
In Maine, children under age 18 must be properly restrained — either with a child safety seat or a seat belt, depending on the child’s age and weight.
Requirements for Young Children
Less than 40 pounds:
When a child weighs less than 40 pounds and is riding in a vehicle that the U.S. Department of Transportation requires to have seat belts:
- The child must be “properly secured” in a child safety seat according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Violation is considered a traffic infraction.
Requirements for Older Children and Teens
Between 40 and 80 pounds:
Children weighing more than 40 pounds but less than 80 pounds and younger than age 8 must be “properly secured” in a child restraint system that is federally approved.
Passengers over the age or height limits for booster seats but younger than 18 are required in Maine to wear seat belts. Any child younger than 12 and weighing less than 100 pounds must ride in the back seat, if possible, and must be properly secured.
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.
How Can Child Caregivers Make Car Trips Safer?
Accidents are the leading cause of death for children over a year old. Car accidents constitute the bulk of those accidents. The National Institutes of Health notes that all babies and children should use appropriate restraint systems — car seats, booster seats and seat belts — when riding in a vehicle.
The Centers for Disease Control offers additional tips for ensuring the safety of children traveling in vehicles.
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.
Finding the appropriate car seat for your child and installing it correctly can be challenging. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers guidance:
- Rear-facing car seats are best for very young children. These seats include a harness and will move along with your child in a crash, reducing shock to the spinal cord and neck.
- For an infant or small baby, use an infant-only, rear-facing seat. These seats are small and portable, and they can be used only in the rear-facing position.
- Convertible seats can be switched from rear-facing to front-facing, with a tether and harness. These seats can be used with children as they grow and allow for keeping children in the safer back-facing position for longer.
- All-in-one seats also can be changed from back- to front-facing. They also can be used as a booster seat to accommodate your growing child.
What’s the bottom line?
If you or a loved one have been injured in a vehicle accident, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney. For a free consultation to review your legal options, contact us online or call us at (888) 526-9408 today.
Photo via flickr by Ryan Dickey