FLORHAM PARK, NJ - New Jersey's new car seat law for children that goes into effect Tuesday, Sept. 1, will reduce the leading cause of death and injury for children 14 and younger, which is car accidents, according to the AAA (American Automobile Association).
New Jersey's new standards are the first of its kind to be signed into law in the nation.
“These new regulations will ensure that New Jersey remains a leader in child passenger safety,” Cathleen Lewis, director of public affairs and government relations for AAA Northeast in New Jersey, said. “The new law, which requires parents to adhere to American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for use of child safety seats, is the easiest way to keep New Jersey’s children safe on the road.”
Under the new law:
- Children under age 2 AND weighing less than 30 pounds must be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat that is equipped with a five-point harness.
- Children ages 2 – 4 and weighing up to 40 pounds must be secured in a child-safety seat equipped with a five-point harness, either rear-facing (up to the height and weight limits of the seat) or forward-facing.
- Children ages 4 – 8 and less than 57” tall (4’9”) must be secured in a forward-facing seat equipped with a five-point harness (up to the height and weight limits of the seat) or in a booster seat.
- Children ages 8 – 17 must use the vehicles seat belt. The safest place for children under 13 is the back seat.
Amanda Norek, Chatham mother of three children ages 3, almost 2 and four months, says it is going to take some adjustment.
"I feel like now that they've been facing forward, they're at the age where they like to look around, so it will take some time to get used to it," Norek said. "Especially now when they look around for trucks on the road. They'll know what they're missing, so turning them to backwards is going to be a change."
Once they are turned to face forward, children must remain in 5-point harness car seats until they are 4-years-old or weigh 40 pounds. The new law also says that children must remain in booster seats until they reach the age of 8 or 57 inches in height.
Fines for violation of the law will range from $50 to $75.
"I've read online about how their necks are not developed at a young age, so if you're in an accident it's safer to have them facing the rear," Norek said. "I don't think a lot of people know about the new law."
Lieutenant Brian Gibbons of the Chatham Borough Police Department has been reading up on the new law himself.
"This makes some pretty significant adjustments to the law," Gibbons said. "It's going to make it safer for infants and children. It's clear from any information you read on the subject that rear-facing seats protect the neck and spinal chord. The longer children can sit in rear-facing seats, the safer they'll be."
The Chatham Borough Police plan to launch an awareness campaign about the new law this month.
"We'll work with the school district to make sure that parents are aware of the new law," Gibbons said.