District of Columbia Car Seat Laws
The car seat laws in the District of Columbia are established to keep children safer when riding in vehicles. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among children over six months of age, which is why it is so important for parents and caregivers to know the rules for safe travel.
The regulations dictate which age or size a child must be before he or she can safely use different types of car seats. Booster seat laws, for example, indicate what age a child can stop using a booster and begin using an adult seat belt.
Even if your child reaches the correct booster seat age, you should still follow recommendations from car seat manufacturers when deciding whether to let children ride with an adult seat belt. A child is safest when he or she stays in a car seat or booster seat as long as possible. Below, learn everything you need to know about car seat safety in D.C. and find out what kinds of seats are available.
What are the car seat laws in the District of Columbia?
While you should always refer to the recommended booster seat weight from car seat manufacturers, it is also important to know the laws relating to car seat usage. The most important car seat regulations in D.C. are as follows:
- All drivers must use a child restraint seat when transporting children who are younger than three years of age.
- Children younger than eight years of age must use an age-appropriate car seat, toddler seat or booster seat that utilizes a seat belt with a lap and shoulder strap.
- Parents and legal guardians who are traveling with more children than there are seat belts may transport a child without a restraint as long as the child does not ride in the front seat.
The laws for car seats in D.C. do not indicate the exact type of seat that you must use for children at different ages. Therefore, it is your responsibility to know specifications, such as the correct car seat ages, when choosing a seat for your children. You can learn about the different booster seat weight requirements by reading instructions from car seat manufacturers.
Penalties for Violating Car Seat Regulations in the District of Columbia
Breaking any of the child car seat laws in D.C. results in a few different consequences. All drivers are subject to the same penalties when transporting children in violation of the law, not just parents and legal guardians. The consequences for not following the booster seat requirements vary based on the number of prior car seat offenses a driver has committed:
- First offense: Drivers can choose between paying a $75 fine or going to a child restraint safety class, which requires paying a $25 fee.
- Second offense: Drivers must attend the child restraint class and pay both the $75 ticket fine and the $25 class fee.
- Third offense: Tickets will come with a fine of $125.
- Fourth and subsequent offenses: Tickets come with a $150 fine.
In addition to fines, motorists who do not adhere to the correct booster car seat age and other requirements will receive two points on their driving record. Points will be assessed each time a driver commits a violation. However, it is possible to contest tickets for car seat violations by requesting a hearing through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Types of Car Seats
When it comes to child car seat safety, it is important to know which types of seats are available. The three main types of seats on the market include the following:
- Rear-facing seats, which are designed for newborns and babies who weigh up to 20 pounds.
- Forward-facing seats, which can be used by children who are older than one year of age and weigh more than 20 pounds.
- Booster seats, which are typically used by children who weigh at least 40 pounds or are around four years of age.
Some of the best car seats for your money are those that convert from one style to another, which allows your child to continue using the same seat for a longer period of time. For example, a convertible seat will change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat once your child is ready. If you have a combination seat, on the other hand, it will switch from a forward-facing seat to a booster seat.
In addition, an all-in-one seat transforms from a rear-facing seat to a forward seat and then finally a booster seat once your child reaches the correct age.
Remember, even the safest car seats can present a hazard if you use the wrong type of seat for your child’s size. Always refer to the recommended car seat weight from each brand or manufacturer to determine which style of seat is right for your child.
Car Seat Installation Information
When installing a car seat, it is important to read the instructions from your car seat manufacturer as well as your vehicle manufacturer, as the directions can vary for each type of seat. In general, you should follow these principles when installing a seat:
- Always face the car seat in the proper direction. Rear-facing seats should never be placed in the front seat if the airbags are turned on.
- Buckle the harness according to the instructions, leaving no more than one finger-width of slack between the strap and your child.
- Anchor the safety seat using the car’s seat belt according to the instructions from the seat and vehicle manufacturer.
- Only use a booster seat with a seat belt that has a lap and shoulder strap.
- After you install a car seat, have it inspected at a safety station before transporting your child.