Motorists must follow all car seat laws in Rhode Island, as doing so will protect their children from injury or death in the event of a traffic collision. In most cases, these car and booster seat laws apply to all children who fall below the state’s minimum age, weight and height requirements. Unless exempt from meeting these requirements, motorists who violate these laws will need to pay a fine and appear in court.

To increase car seat safety in Rhode Island, the state police recommends seating child passengers in the rear of a vehicle as often as possible, especially if children are younger than 12 years of age. Additionally, all infants who are younger than one year of age or weigh less than 20 pounds must be secured in a rear-facing seat.

Once infants meet these minimum age and weight requirements, they may sit in a front-facing seat. To explore these laws in more detail, review the information below.

What are the car seat laws in Rhode Island?

Under the Rhode Island car seat law, drivers may only transport child passengers in a motor vehicle if they restrain them in an appropriately sized car or booster seat. Failure to comply with the regulations may result in receiving a traffic ticket. In most cases, drivers must comply with these laws until children turn eight years of age or meet the state’s minimum height and weight requirements for wearing an adult safety belt.

For instance, these child car seat laws include:

  • The need for a car or booster seat if a child is younger than eight years of age, shorter than 57 inches tall and lighter than 80 pounds in weight.
  • The need for a rear facing car seat if the child passenger is younger than two years of age or lighter than 30 pounds in weight.
  • The need for a forward-facing seat if the child is two years of age or older and outgrows the height and weight recommendations for their rear-facing seat.

As part of these RI car seat guidelines, children must also sit in the rear of a vehicle if they are younger than eight years of age, shorter than 57 inches tall and lighter than 80 pounds.

However, there are several exceptions to this rule. For instance, children may sit in the front of a vehicle if the automobile does not contain back seats or if all other rear seats are occupied by young children.

In this case, the oldest child must ride in the front seat. However, if both front seats are equipped with active airbags, then rear-facing infant seats may not be secured in the front of the vehicle at any time.

Penalties for Violating Car Seat Regulations in Rhode Island

If motorists violate these car seat requirements in Rhode Island and are issued a citation, then they will need to pay an $85 fine. This fine applies to motorists who do not restrain a child passenger in an appropriate car or booster seat or drivers who do not secure their young children near the rear of the vehicle. Paying a traffic ticket is required if pleading guilty.

Drivers can also try and fight the ticket in court with or without a traffic ticket lawyer. However, motorists will need to appear in court and pay any applicable court costs.

Types of Car Seats

Under the car and booster seat regulations in RI, children must sit in an appropriately fitted child restraint device whenever they travel by motor vehicle. However, children need different types of seats depending on their age, height and weight. For instance, the safest car seats for child passengers include:

  • The infant car seat for babies who are younger than one year of age and weigh less than 20 pounds. Alternately, a convertible car seat that faces the rear of a vehicle is suitable for babies between five and 30 pounds.
  • A convertible rear- or front-facing seat for toddlers who are between one and four years of age and weigh between 20 and 40 pounds. The convertible toddler car seat may face the rear of the vehicle if children weigh between five and 35 pounds or the front of the car if they weigh between 20 and 40 pounds.
  • A booster seat if children are between four and eight years of age, weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and stand less than 54 inches tall. Booster seats are available in high-back or backless models.

Several of the best car seats for children, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), include the Baby Trend Inertia for infants weighing between five and 32 pounds, the Britax Advocate ClickTight for children weighing between 20 and 65 pounds, and The First Years True Fit I-Alert front-facing seat for children weighing between 23 and 65 pounds.

Moreover, top-rated booster seats include the Clek Olli, Cosco Topside, Learning Curve B540 and the Evenflo Big Kid DLX.

Car Seat Installation Information

Child car seat safety begins during the installation process. Therefore, motorists must refer to their vehicle’s ownership manual and the product instructions that came with their car or booster seat for specific installation information. However, the following tips can help to simplify the process of installing a car or booster seat:

  • When installing a baby car seat, position it facing the rear of the vehicle and ensure that the harness straps are level with the infant’s armpits (at or below shoulder level).
  • When installing a seat for a toddler, you may position the seat to the front of the vehicle if the child weighs at least 20 pounds or if he or she is older than one year of age.
  • During the process of installing a front-facing convertible seat, make sure the harness straps are threaded through the seat’s top slots and the harness clips are secured at armpit level.
  • When installing a child booster seat in a vehicle, do so in a rear seat that has shoulder and lap belts.
  • After installing a booster seat and strapping the child in with a seatbelt, make sure the shoulder strap wraps across the child’s chest and shoulder, with the lap strap against the child’s upper thighs.

To receive RI car seat installation assistance, residents may contact a state police department in Wickford, Chepachet, Lincoln, Hope Valley, Scituate or Portsmouth to schedule an appointment with a Child Passenger Safety Technician. Alternately, residents may contact their local police department for installation assistance.

Last updated on Wednesday, September 23 2020.