Arizona Car Seat Law
Lack of car seat use is a significant problem in the U.S. Thirty-five percent (35%) of children who died in car accidents in 2016 were not using car seats or seat belts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Car accidents are a leading cause of childhood death in Arizona. Obeying the state’s car seat laws when transporting young children could save lives.
All Children Under 5 Require Restraint Systems
Arizona Revised Statutes Section 28-907 requires drivers to properly restrain all children under five years old using child restraint systems. It is against the law to operate a motor vehicle with unrestrained children under age five. Passengers who are five to eight years old and under four feet nine inches tall must also use child restraint systems.
The fine for breaching Arizona’s car seat law is $50 for a first offense. A judge will often drop the fine, however, if the guardian appears in court with proof of purchasing a car seat that complies with federal regulations. Getting into an accident with an illegally unrestrained child could result in more severe penalties. Penalties may include potential criminal charges for reckless endangerment if the child suffers serious injuries or dies.
Types of Child Restraint Systems
Like most states, Arizona does not require different restraint seats based only on a child’s age, but also on the child’s height and weight. Parents and guardians should read the owner’s manuals for car seats to understand the maximum limits for each type of seat. This information is also printed on most car seats. Using the correct seat is critical to keep children safe in car accidents.
- Rear-facing car seat. Newborns will use rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they meet the maximum height or weight limit of the seat. Crash tests have shown rear-facing seats keep infants the safest in accidents.
- Forward-facing car seat. A child two or older will graduate to a forward-facing car seat once he or she is tall enough. The child should remain in this type of seat until age five, or until the child reaches the seat’s maximum height or weight limit.
- Booster seat. A booster seat enables a vehicle’s lap and shoulder belts to fit correctly around a small child by boosting him or her to the correct height. Children ages five to eight or nine should use booster seats until they reach four feet nine inches tall.
- Seat belt. A child should wear a seatbelt after outgrowing a booster seat – ideally with no age limit, but at least until the child turns 16. At age 16, the parent or guardian will not be liable for a teenager who fails to wear a seatbelt.
Child passengers should always ride in the backseat of a vehicle, if possible. They are safer in the back due to the risk of airbag injuries in the front. The back middle seat is the safest in a wreck, as a child has the lowest odds of striking another seat or suffering severe injuries due to seatback failure. Seatback failure is a vehicle defect in which a front seat (usually the driver’s seat) collapses back in an accident, potentially crushing children in the backseat as well as causing catastrophic driver spinal cord injuries.
Exceptions to Arizona’s Car Seat Law
Drivers may lawfully have unrestrained children in vehicles in limited circumstances in Arizona. If it is an emergency to get the child medical care, for example, the police will make an exception to the state’s car seat law. Drivers who lawfully have unrestrained children in the vehicle will not receive traffic tickets or fines for doing so.
- School or city buses
- Commercial vehicles with valid commercial licenses
- Recreational vehicles
- Vehicle model years 1972 and older without seatbelts
In most cases, parents must properly restrain their children while driving. It is a driver’s legal responsibility to properly secure all children under the age of eight. The negligent failure to use a car seat while transporting children could lead to a ticket and/or liability for child injuries in an auto crash.