Georgia’s Car Seat Laws and What They Mean For Your Child

Car seat laws can be very confusing. Georgia’s safety laws require that children use particular car safety features until they reach the designated age and weight to move to the next stage. However, many parents wonder what car seat their child needs to stay safe.

Babies and Infants: Rear-Facing Only

Rear-facing car seats are for children under 1-year-old. Infant car seats must be in the back seat and should be secured with a base attachment.

Parents should take extra care in securing these seats. Astudy by Safe Kids Worldwide found that the majority of infant and toddler car seats are not correctly installed. Unsecured seats can have devastating consequences in the event of a car crash.

Babies must use rear-facing seats until they are both over 20lbs and at least 1-year old. Numerous studies and safety data out today indicates that babies should be kept rear-facing until their 2nd birthday when possible. Their necks and spines just aren’t strong enough to withstand the forces of certain types of crashes until they are more developed. So keep those babies facing the rear until the reach the maximum height and weight restrictions for your car seat. Those precious giggles and smiles will still be there when you arrive at your destination! Once they outgrow their rear-facing seat, they are ready for a forward-facing harness seat.

Forward-Facing Harness Seat

Forward-facing seats, also known as toddler seats, are for children who have outgrown the manufacturer’s specifications on the side of your infant seat for rear-facing. Many infant seats are “convertible” meaning they start as rear-facing infant seats and become forward-facing toddler seats when turned around.

Children may need a bigger toddler seat if his or her head is within one inch of the top of the seat before they turn 4-years-old.

The 5-point harness system is widely recognized as the safest restraint for this age group. This is because the 5 points of contact of the harness (one over each shoulder, one over each thigh and the chest clip over the sternum) are distributing the forces of a crash over the 5 strongest points of a child’s young body. This force re-distribution in a violent crash can make a big difference to a young child’s body. These harnesses are designed specifically to reduce the chances of fatal injuries in many crashes.

Booster Seat

By far the most difficult and challenging age group is the children who are too big for a harness type seat and need to be in a booster. Oftentimes children at this age are resistant to using a booster seat – they often complain they are too big to be forced to sit in a “baby” seat. Is it really worth it to fight these battles? The answer is Yes!

Children under 8 who are in a booster seat are 59% less likely to be injured in a crash than children who are using a seat belt alone. This means that parents can cut the risk of injury for their children in half by keeping them in a booster seat until they reach age 8 instead of letting them come out of the booster seats too soon. Children under age 8 are simply too small to be able to have the lap and shoulder belt fit them properly and keep them properly restrained. They can easily slip under the shoulder strap, which causes all of the forces of a collision to be concentrated across their abdomen. Their spines are not protected if they shoulder belt doesn’t fit and can’t restrain them from being thrown forward or sideways.

Please remember that children using booster seats may not sit in the front seat under any circumstances.

Children must use a booster seat until they are 8-years-old, over 80lbs, and taller than 4’9”.

Graduating to Seatbelts

Seatbelts are the long-awaited graduating point for kids to ditch the old car safety seat. However, there are still dangers parents and caregivers should keep in mind. A child must meet height and weight requirements to ride in a car without a child safety seat. Always keep the lap belt snug over the tops of the thighs (and not across the abdomen) and the shoulder belt across the child’s chest (not under the armpit or across the neck). Never allow a child to place the shoulder belt behind their back or to lay down in the seat while traveling on the road. Lap and shoulder belts are designed to be used in tandem and cannot function properly if not properly positioned over the child’s body.

While Georgia law technically does not prohibit children over the age of 8 from sitting in the front seat, experts recommend that children not be allowed to sit in the front seat until they are at least 12-years-old due to the risk of a front seat airbag injury. And children sitting in the front seat should never be allowed to put their feet on the dashboard or in the windshield as serious leg injuries can occur if the airbags deploy in a crash.

If your child suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident, there are unique claims that can be brought on behalf of children and the time limits can be different than for adults. If you’d like to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Valdosta auto accident attorney from the Studstill Firm, please call (229) 515-8900 or send us an email.

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