One of the most vital parents' jobs is to ensure their children's safety and protection when riding a motor vehicle.
Each year, more and more young children are injured and killed in crashes.
This brings up the proper use of Utah car seat laws to keep children safe.
Utah Car Seat Laws
As of January 2018, the Utah Car Seat Law states that any children below the age of eight must use a child restraint system in accordance with the manufacturer's guidelines.
For utmost protection, the following guidelines should be strictly followed:
Infants must be restrained in a rear-facing seat positioned in the back seat of the vehicle.
Rear-facing car seats come in two types: infant seat and convertible seats.
The infant sets' design can carry children weighing five to 20 pounds, while convertible seats are for children weighing five to 35 pounds.
Rear-facing seats should be used as long as possible until the maximum weight and height limits are reached, usually at the age of two.
- Adjust the car seat to about 30 - 45 degrees angle to ensure better protection of the child.
- The harness straps must snugly fit in the slots or below the shoulders of the child.
- The retainer clip must be positioned at armpit level to secure the strap on the infant's shoulders.
- Avoid placing the infant in the front seat with an airbag.
- For extra support, a blanket or rolled cloth diaper can be placed on the side of the baby's body or between the legs.
Once the rear-facing was outgrown, the child should use a forward-facing car seat still positioned in the back seat.
This car seat can carry children between 20 to 40 pounds, while some models have a higher harness weight limit that can carry up to 65 pounds.
- The retainer clip must be at armpit level to keep the strap on the shoulder.
- The car seat must be installed properly and tightly to prevent side-to-side movement on the belt path.
3. Booster Seats
When the child outgrows the forward-facing car seats, it is time to use a booster seat.
Generally, this occurs at the age of four or when the child is 40 pounds.
Generally, this type of car seat is designed for children between 40 to 100 pounds and those under 4'9" in height.
It must be used with a combination of the lap and shoulder belt.
There are two types of booster seats: the high-back belt and the no-back belt-positioning boosters.
The high-back boosters are recommended for children 30 to 100 pounds and should be used with low seat beck vehicles for added head protection.
On the other hand, the no-back boosters are recommended for 40 to 100 pounds.
Unused boosters may become projectile and may cause injuries in case of an accident.
Be sure to buckle it tightly and securely when not in use.
4. Seat Belts
After outgrowing booster seats, children must always use a safety belt.
This typically occurs between the age of eight and 12 or when they reached 4'9" height.
1) Never let the child put the shoulder belt under their arm or behind their back.
2) Be sure that your child passes the "Safety Belt Fit Test" before using one:
- The knees must bend at the seat's edge when the bottoms and backs are against the seat.
- The lap belt of the vehicle must fit across their upper thighs.
- The shoulder belt of the vehicle must fit across their chest and shoulder.
Penalties for Violations
All drivers are legally responsible for obeying the car seat law and ensuring that all their passengers are properly restrained, especially children.
Failure to do so will get them a ticket with a corresponding penalty or fine.
The penalty for breaking the law is $45.
However, only one citation will be received even if there is more than one violation of the law.
Exemptions to the Law
- If the child is 40 pounds or more and is riding in a motor vehicle without a lap and shoulder belt.
- If the motor vehicle is manufactured before 1967.
- If all the seat belt positions are occupied or taken.
- If the passenger carries a written verification from a doctor indicating a physical or medical condition.
Car Seats for Obese Children
Obese and overweight children should also be safely transported in car seats.
Some manufacturers developed an appropriate restraint system to meet the needs of larger children who have higher weights and heights.
These car seats ensure higher-capacity to provide the utmost protection for obese children.
Car Seat on Public Transportation
Public transportation, such as public buses are not required to have seat belts.
The same thing goes for school buses.
However, a bill requiring seat belts on new school buses was submitted by the House Transportation Committee.
The Use of Cell Phone in Vehicles
The state of Utah bans the use of cell phones while driving.
According to the law, the driver is allowed a single tap or swipe for emergency purposes only, given that the mobile device is mounted to ensure visibility of the road.
Drivers are not allowed to hold and talk on the phone while driving, even when getting directions.
The penalties for violating this law were as follows:
1. Class C misdemeanor - if cell phone use didn't cause harm to anyone.
2. Class B misdemeanor - if cell phone use caused severe injuries to others, a fine of up to $1000 and six months in jail also applies if there are any previous convictions within three years.
Car Seat Programs in Utah
1. Buckle Up for Love
This educational program aims to decrease the number of injuries and deaths of children involved in vehicular accidents by increasing awareness of car seats' proper use.
2. Shriners Hospital Special Needs Clinic
Children with special needs are still required to use car seats.
Thus, Shriners Hospital offers a program that provides special car seats to special children.
The hospital holds a special needs car seat clinic to help families choose the right car seat for their special needs children.
This is conducted by clinical professionals accredited by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to ensure every child's proper assessment.
Moreover, this program helps select the best custom car seat and educates the parents and families on using the seat dedicated to children with special needs.
3. Salt Lake County Health Department
The department sells car seats at a reduced and more affordable price to qualified families.
To qualify for the program, the family must attend a car seat seminar and provide proof of income, stating that you are at or below the 195% current federal poverty level.
For more information, contact the Salt Lake County Health Department.
Generally, car seats reduce the risk of children against injuries and deaths during an accident.
It is your duty as parents to choose the appropriate car seat and to follow Utah car seat laws to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in every ride.
Buckle up, not only for safety but also for love!