Pennsylvania Car Seat Laws
Motorists must comply with the car seat laws in Pennsylvania whenever they travel by motor vehicle with a child passenger. As part of these car and booster seat laws, children must use an acceptable type of child restraint device whenever they ride in a vehicle until they turn eight years of age. If drivers do not abide by these laws, then they will receive a traffic ticket and have to pay a penalty fee.
To increase car seat safety in PA, the state requires the use of rear-facing seats if children are younger than two years of age. If children are two years of age or older, then they may use a forward-facing seat. However, once children outgrow their rear- or forward-facing seats, they may upgrade to a booster seat until they are large enough to safely use an adult seat belt. To learn more about these laws, review the sections below.
What are the car seat laws in Pennsylvania?
Under the car and booster seat requirements in Pennsylvania, all child passengers must use an approved safety restraint whenever they travel by vehicle. However, these laws vary depending on the age of the child. While appropriate car seat ages range between birth and four years of age, the booster seat age generally begins at four years.
For instance, if children are:
- Between birth and four years of age, then they must sit in an approved safety seat that suits their specific age and weight.
- Between birth and two years of age, then they must sit in a rear-facing seat until they outgrow the product’s height and weight requirements.
- Between four and eight years of age, then they must sit on an appropriately-sized booster seat.
- Eight years of age or older, then they must use an adult seat belt.
Licensed drivers, regardless if they are the guardian of the child, may be subject to a fine for having an unrestrained child in a moving car.
Penalties for Violating Car Seat Regulations in Pennsylvania
If motorists violate these child car seat laws in PA, then they will be subject to paying a traffic ticket for the citation. The fine for a car seat violation is $75 along with any applicable court costs.
Types of Car Seats
Under the Pennsylvania car seat law, the state Department of Transportation (PennDOT) recommends using certain types of safety restraints over others, especially when riding with infants and young children. For instance, the safest car seats for children include:
- A rear-facing or infant car seat for children who are two years of age and younger. While infant seats typically face the rear of a vehicle, many other rear-facing models are available as three-in-one seats or convertible models.
- A rear-facing seat for children who are between two and three years of age. According to PennDOT, children need a rear facing car seat until they turn three years of age or exceed their product’s weight or height limit.
- A forward-facing seat for children who are between four and seven years of age. Once children are old enough to use a forward-facing seat, they must do so until they outgrow the product or turn eight years of age.
- A seat belt for children who are older than eight years of age or large enough to safely use an adult seat belt. However, the seat belt must safely rest against the child’s upper thighs and across the chest and shoulder. Additionally, children are safest in a back seat, even if they are older than eight years of age.
To comply with the PA car seat regulations, drivers must obtain a safety seat that best fits their child’s age, height and weight. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), manufacturers such as 4moms, Baby Trend, Britax, Chicco, Cybex, Dream on Me, Graco and Safety 1st sell many top-rated products for children of all ages.
Moreover, several of the best car seats for infants include the 4moms Infant Seat, Baby Jogger Infant Seat, Baby Trend Inertia and Cybex Aton Q, as these products received a five-star NHTSA rating when it came to securing the child in the seat. As for ease of use, the best seats for infants include the Baby Trend Inertia, Britax B-Safe 35, Combi Shuttle, Doona Infant Seat and GB Asana 35.
Car Seat Installation Information
Car seat safety starts at installation, as seats need to be installed properly before they can protect child passengers in the event of a collision. However, the process of installing a car seat varies by manufacturer and product type. To learn how to install a car seat, motorists must refer to their vehicle’s ownership manual and the instructions that came with their car or booster seat. Moreover, the following tips can help to simplify the installation process:
- When installing a rear facing car seat for an infant passenger, the seat should be reclined at a maximum angle of 45 degrees, as doing so keeps the child’s airway open
- Motorists cannot install a rear-facing seat in the front of a vehicle if the passenger side airbag is activated
- When installing a forward-facing seat with a tether strap, secure the strap to the vehicle’s tether anchor
- For a rear or forward facing car seat, the harness should sit at or below the child’s shoulders if installing a rear seat or at or above the passenger’s shoulders if installing a forward-facing seat
- When installing a booster seat, the lap belt should rest against the child’s upper thighs, with the shoulder belt across the passenger’s chest
To obtain car seat installation assistance, motorists may visit one of the 75 PennDOT fitting stations available throughout the state. Residents may contact one of the local DMV offices with any questions. Additionally, many counties throughout the state assist families in need through the state’s Child Safety Seat Loan Program. As part of this program, needy families may borrow car seats at no charge to them.