What you need to know about Virginia's Car Seat Law
Today, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a new child passenger safety bill that could help save lives. The new bill requires children in Virginia to remain rear-facing in their car seats until age 2 or the minimum weight limit called for by the car seat manufacturer, which can be 40-50 pounds for newer seats.
If your vehicle does not have a back seat, the child may sit in the front passenger seat but only when the passenger seat airbag is deactivated, according to the vehicle manufacturer's instructions. The law does not apply to taxis, school buses or limousines.
Virginia Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) championed the bill with support from Safe Kids Virginia, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Children’s National Health System and AAA Mid-Atlantic.
“The health of all children is our number one priority at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU,” said Corri Miller-Hobbs, Safe Kids Virginia program coordinator at CHoR. “This includes supporting legislature that will help keep kids safe from injury and out of the hospital.”
When: Virginia’s new car seat law went into effect on July 1, 2019. You can start keeping your toddlers safer TODAY by keeping them in a rear-facing position.
Why: The law is based on current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Infants and toddlers are “head heavy,” and the rear-facing car seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of smaller children as their bodies are still developing.
Fine: Break the law and the fine for a first offense is $50.
Older kids: Virginia law is unchanged for older kids. Children 7 years and under must be restrained in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat of a vehicle.
An adult safety belt is permissible for children ages 8-17, and safety belts are required for the driver and all passengers.
Tips for choosing a car seat for your kids
- Use a safety seat with an unknown history (purchased at a yard sale, consignment store, etc.)
- Wait until hospital discharge to install the safety seat or seek help.
- Place padding behind the child’s back or under their bottom.
- Purchase extra products that were not sold with the safety seat (harness strap covers, toys, head supports, etc.).
- Place a rear-facing child safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle, unless the vehicle manufacturer allows the airbag to be turned off. (Follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations regarding other vehicle airbags.)
If your baby weighs less than five pounds, keep the following additional recommendations in mind:
- Purchase a federally approved infant car seat with a lower weight listed as birth to three or four pounds, whatever weight is appropriate for your child
- Consider a seat with a five-point harness system.
- Consider a seat with two to three crotch strap positions.
- Seek local safety seat technicians for assistance.
- Use a safety seat with a listed lower weight of five pounds or more.
Get assistance with installation of a child safety seat.
The Ultimate Car Seat Guide
Safe Kids created The Ultimate Car Seat Guide, which is a go-to resource for personalized car seat safety tips based on your child’s age, height and weight. Check it out and learn what type of car seat is best for your child and tips on how to properly install and fit the car seat. The guide is also available en Espanol!
Check it out: You can get your child’s car seat inspected by a certified technician. Contact your local Virginia Safe Kids Coalition to find out how. The federal government also has a feature to find car seat technicians.
Additional car seat resources: