Utah Car Seat Laws Every Parent Should Know

//Utah Car Seat Laws Every Parent Should Know

Utah Car Seat Laws Every Parent Should Know

Utah car seat laws protect children when they are in motor vehicles. Knowing the car seat laws in Utah can avoid a traffic ticket while helping you keep your little one safe. Before parents get behind the wheel, it’s important to be aware of the following car seat laws.

4 Important Utah Car Seat Laws

  1. All Children Younger Than 8 Years of Age Must Be Restrained in a Child Restraint Device
  2. Children Over Eight Years of Age or 57 Inches Tall May Use a Seat Belt
  3. Drivers Are Responsible for Ensuring Children Under 16 Years of Age Are Restrained According to Car Seat Guidelines
  4. Utah Car Seat Laws are Primary Offense Laws

The use of a car seat is the best way to protect your child when he or she is traveling in a motor vehicle. The leading cause of death for children in the United States is motor vehicle injuries. During 2016, 128,000 children sustained injuries and 723 children under 13 years of age died in motor vehicle crashes. 35 percent of the children who died in motor vehicle crashes were not secured in a safety device. A CDC study found that more than 618,000 children 12 years of age and under were passengers in vehicles without safety seats some of the time.

Why Are Car Seats Important?

The use of child safety seats reduces the risk of life-threatening injuries and severe injuries in a car accident. It is important for parents to understand the types of car seats available and how to choose the best car seat for their infant, toddler, and child.

Child safety seats come in all shapes and sizes. Some car seats are for infants only while other safety seats are convertible, meaning you can use the child seat for infants, toddlers, and older children. When choosing a car seat for your child, you want to keep these important tips in mind:

  • Only purchase car seats that are clearly labeled with a statement that certifies the child safety restraint exceeds or meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.
  • Purchase a safety seat based on the child’s age, height, and weight.
  • Always complete the registration card and return it to the manufacturer for notification of recalls or problems with car seats.
  • Do not purchase a used car seat without checking for recalls. Always check the manufacturer’s recommended expiration date for the safety seat. You also want to avoid purchasing used car seats that appear worn, damaged, or do not have an owner’s instruction manual.
  • A five-point safety harness or impact shield protection is typically the most secure harness for car seats.
  • Infant car seats that are compatible with strollers can be useful for parents.
  • Comfort pads and headrests can help make the car seat more comfortable for toddlers and older children.
  • A car seat that is highly rated for side impact protection helps protect a child by maintaining the alignment of the child’s head, neck, and spine during a collision.
  • If choosing a taller safety seat, look for multiple harness slots that allow for proper adjustment of the harness as your child grows.

Parents can find more information about the types of car seats, child safety seat features, and car seat safety tips from Consumer Reports and Safe Kids Worldwide.

What Are The Car Seat Laws in Utah?

1. All Children Younger Than Eight Years of Age Must Be Restrained in a Child Restraint Device

Utah car seat laws require that all children under 8 years of age be restrained in a child restraint device while in a motor vehicle. The car seat laws in Utah do not specifically state what models of child restraint devices to use, booster seat requirements, or in what position to place the car seat within the vehicle. However, the Utah car seat laws closely mirror the car seat guidelines and recommendations for child safety seats established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

What are the new CDC car seat recommendations?

The CDC recommends that children remain in a rear-facing car seat from birth through ages 2 to 4. However, the AAP changed its recommendations for rear-facing car seats in 2018 to remove any age restrictions. The AAP car seat guidelines recommend that children remain in rear-facing car seats as long as possible until the child reaches the maximum weight limit and height restrictions for rear-facing car seats. After the child outgrows the rear facing car seat, the CDC car seat guidelines recommend using a forward facing car seat until the child is five years of age or outgrows the front facing car seat.

It is also recommended that children remain in the back seat for as long as possible or at least until 12 years of age. An air bag can be extremely dangerous for younger children because they can cause severe and fatal injuries to a child during an accident.

Can you still use booster seats?

Yes, under Utah booster seat laws, a parent can use a booster seat for their child.

When should your child switch from a car seat to a booster seat?

The CDC recommends switching a child from a car seat to a booster seat only after the child has outgrown the weight and height restrictions for a forward-facing car seat. The booster seat helps the safety belt fit correctly across the child’s shoulder, chest, and lap. The seat belt fits correctly when the shoulder belt is across the chest (not across the neck), and the lap belt is across the upper thighs.

2. Children Over Eight Years of Age or 57 Inches Tall May Use a Seat Belt

A child must be at least eight years of age or 57 inches tall to use a safety belt under Utah car seat laws. A child is tall enough to wear a seat belt properly when the child is at least 57 inches tall. However, some children may not fit in a safety belt properly until they are several years older. Therefore, parents should always check to ensure the seat belt is properly fitted before they stop using a booster seat even though Utah car seat laws allow parents to stop using booster seats when their child reaches eight years of age or 57 inches in height.

Is it legal to use a backless booster seat?

Yes, it is legal under Utah car seat laws to use backless booster seats. Backless booster seats are typically safe to use in vehicles that have high seat backs and headrests. If the vehicle does not have a headrest or has low seat backs, a high-back booster seat is typically the best choice for a child safety restraint.

What are the biggest booster seat mistakes?

Parents should not place booster seats in the front seat. Children should remain in the back seat as long as possible, but at least until they are 12 years of age or they no longer need to use a booster seat. Backless and high-back booster seats are the two most common types of booster seats. As mentioned above, the type of vehicle you drive should dictate whether you use a high-back booster seat or a backless booster seat.

Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for installing a booster seat. Many parents fail to secure the booster seat with anchors when anchors are provided. Since many booster seats do not have anchors, parents must ensure that the seat belt fastens correctly. The seat belt should fit snugly across the thighs and chest. If the seat belt does not fit correctly, the child may not be tall enough to use a booster seat.

Booster seats are only for use with a lap and shoulder belt. If a vehicle only has lap belts, other methods of securing the child may need to be used to ensure the child’s safety while riding in the vehicle.

3. Drivers Are Responsible for Ensuring Children Under 16 Years of Age Are Restrained According to Car Seat Guidelines

Under Utah car seat laws, a driver is legally responsible for ensuring that all passengers under the age of 16 years are properly restrained while riding in a vehicle. Even if a parent is in the vehicle, it is still the driver’s responsibility to ensure the use of car seat, booster seat, or seat belt as required by law. Law enforcement officers can issue a traffic citation to the driver if a child is not restrained properly regardless of whether the driver is the parent of the child or not. Parents cannot “give their consent” for a child to ride in a vehicle in violation of Utah car seat laws.

4. Utah Car Seat Laws are Primary Offense Laws

Some states have enacted car seat laws that are secondary laws. A secondary law means that the police officer cannot stop a vehicle for a violation of that law alone. The police officer can only issue a traffic ticket for violation of a secondary traffic offense if the police officer stopped the vehicle for another legal reason.

Utah car seat laws are primary offense laws. A police officer can stop a vehicle for the sole reason that the driver or a passenger is violating seat belt or child restraint laws. In other words, you can be stopped and given a traffic ticket for the sole reason that you are not wearing your safety belt, or your child is not restrained in a car seat.

A car seat ticket can result in a fine and could impact your car insurance in Utah.

How to Correctly Install a Child Safety Seat – Car Seat Safety Tips

Child safety seats cannot provide maximum protection for a child in a car accident in Utah unless the seat is installed properly. Child passenger safety laws is a topic that needs to be discussed at length with parents, especially new parents.

What car seat installation method should I use?

Every car seat and booster seat have an installation manual. Your vehicle may also have instructions in the owner’s manual for installation of a car seat. You need to follow the instructions in the manuals to install the child safety seat or booster seat properly. Some general car seat installation instructions that might be useful include:

Infant-Only Car Seats

Infant-only car seats usually accommodate newborns from birth until the newborn weighs between 22 to 35 pounds. Car seats designed for infants only should be placed in a rear-facing position. Whenever possible, place infant-only car seats in the back seat. The middle of the back seat is typically the safest position. If the vehicle does not have a rear seat, make sure that passenger airbags are turned off when using an infant seat.

Pushing down on the car seat with your knee as you secure the car seat with the vehicle’s seat belts can help secure the seat. Some infant-only car seats have anchors. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine if your vehicle is equipped with anchors. If the car seat moves more than one inch from side to side, the infant seat is not secured properly. An infant car seat needs to be adjusted to a 45-degree angle.

When placing your infant in the car seat, your baby’s head should rest at least two inches from the top of the car seat. The harness should be in the slots that are at or below your infant’s shoulders. The top of the chest clip should be level with your infant’s armpits. Make sure that the harness straps are snug. If you can pinch any of the webbing of the straps, the straps are too loose.

Convertible Seats

Convertible seats may also be used with infants and children up to 40 pounds who are seated in a rear-facing position. The car seats are designed to convert to forward facing car seats to accommodate children up to 65 to 80 pounds depending on the child safety seat model. Many parents prefer using convertible car seats because it prevents the need for purchasing multiple child restraint devices as their children grow. Some convertible seats are 3-in-one seats designed to transition into all three types of child safety seats — rear facing car seat, front facing car seat, and booster seat.

It is important that parents carefully monitor their child’s weight and height to determine when to transition the convertible car seat into the next stage. When transitioning the safety seat, it may be necessary to change the position of the seat within the vehicle and how the vehicle’s seat belts are used with the child safety seat. Before installing a convertible car seat, read all instructions for the car seat, and review the vehicle’s owner’s manual when transitioning between positions.

As with an infant seat, make sure that the harness straps are in the correct position. There should be several positions for the harness straps to allow the parent to move the harness strap as the child grows taller. The straps need to be snug and lie flat.

Forward Facing Car Seat

Parents who chose infant-only car seats need to transition into a forward facing car seat or a convertible car seat when their child outgrows the rear facing car seat. The same tips and suggestions apply to forward-facing car seats. Read and follow the instructions in the owner’s manual and ensure that the harness straps are snug and lie flat. Children should remain in rear-facing car seats as long as possible.

LATCH Systems (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children)

Many newer model vehicles have special safety seat anchors. They are designed to work with the latches on car seats. The latch system is supposed to make installing a child safety seat easier because you do not need to use a vehicle’s seat belts to secure the car seat.

One potential problem is that some of the latches on car seats are not compatible with a vehicle’s anchor system. A car seat latch system should only be used when it is recommended by both the child safety seat manufacturer and the vehicle manufacturer. The latch system is not designed to be used with safety belts. A parent should choose whichever system provides the most secure installation of a child safety seat within the vehicle.

Where can I get help installing my child’s car seat?

Parents can make an appointment to have their child safety seat inspected by a certified child passenger safety technician. The technician inspects the car seat to ensure that it is installed properly and advises the parent on the correct way to use the child safety seat. You can find a list of the Utah Car Seat Inspection Stations on Utah’s Department of Public Safety website.

What are the biggest car seat mistakes?

There are several common car seat mistakes that parents make when choosing, installing, or using car seats. Common car seat mistakes to avoid include:

  • Choosing a car seat that is not designed for your child’s age, weight, and height. The manufacturer’s instructions provide the maximum measurements for the car seat. Parents also need to make sure that the car seat has not been recalled or expired.
  • Failing to install a car seat correctly using anchors and top tethers when available. When you try to move the car seat after installation, the car seat should not move more than an inch in either direction. If the car seat moves more than an inch when you shake it, the restraints are not tight enough, or the car seat is not installed properly.
  • Failing to tighten the harness straps sufficiently and place the chest strap in the correct position.
  • Switching from a rear facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat before your child outgrows the weight limit and height restrictions for rear-facing car seats.
  • Placing your child in the front seat too soon. It is recommended that children remain in the back seat until they are at least 13 years of age. Airbags deploy at extremely high rates of speed. Because of a child’s height and age, they are at a high risk of life-threatening injuries from an air bag. Also, in head-on collisions and other types of car crashes, the back seat is safer for a child than the front seat.

Where can I register my car seat?

When you purchase a new car seat, safety restraint, or booster seat, the manufacturer should provide a card with instructions for you to complete and return by mail. Many manufacturers now allow consumers to register car seats online with the manufacturer. Registering the child safety seat allows the manufacturer to notify you immediately if there is a recall or other issue with the safety seat.

Parents can also check for car seat recalls and file complaints regarding car seats with the NHTSA. Before purchasing a used car seat or using a borrowed safety seat, always check for recalls and check the expiration date of the car seat.

Preventing Car Accident Injuries for Children in Utah

Distracted driving laws, Utah car seat laws, and other traffic laws, like speed limits, are designed to help prevent car accident injuries for children. Children who sustain injuries in car accidents can develop life-altering conditions that impair their ability to grow, learn, and explore like other children. A disability or impairment can prevent a child from seeking the education, career, and life they desire. It is important to take every available step to reduce the risk of injury to children from motor vehicle crashes when you are driving.

Unfortunately, parents can take all necessary steps to protect their children from car crash injuries, including obeying the Utah car seat laws, but that does not always prevent a child from being involved in a traffic accident. If your child is injured in an automobile accident, he or she may be entitled to compensation from the at-fault parties. Compensation for a personal injury claim will not undo the damage caused by the motor vehicle crash, but it can help provide the medical care and personal care necessary to help your child recover and return to normal activities.

Contact the Utah personal injury attorneys of Acadia Law Group for help protecting your child’s legal rights and best interests after a car accident. Call 1-800-653-4600 or contact us online to begin your free consultation.