There is an undeniable link between traffic safety and child car seat laws. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) emphasizes the importance of child safety requirements and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is on board with them as well.
That is why we have car seat laws affecting all passengers under the age of eight years old or under 57 inches tall. Most recently, Governor Beshear signed House Bill 315 and enacted a booster seat requirement for children raising the height standard from the previous 50 inches. This is consistent with recent data from the NHTSA and proposed federal regulations. The law is expected to reduce car accident injuries in children.
However, laws affecting child restraint systems are only effective if adults who transport children in their private vehicles are aware of them. Here is a review of the car and booster seat laws in Kentucky so you can be prepared and help your young passengers travel safer.
Car Seat Law Requirements
Car seat laws are codified under KRS 189.125. “Child restraint system” includes any device designed to transport children in motor vehicles that meets all federal regulation requirements. Systems include car seats and booster seats. While car seats are more encompassing, the booster seat elevates a passenger so the lap and shoulder belt system fits him or her correctly.
Children under 40 inches tall require car seats that are rear or front facing, depending on age. Normally, children can start using a booster seat at 40 inches, as long as the seat belt crosses the lap and shoulders correctly. Fit should sit low on the hips or high on the thighs and the shoulder strap needs to cross the collarbone. Until you are able to accomplish this fit with a booster seat, you will need to use an infant or child car seat. Once a child outgrows a car seat, it will no longer offer the same protection.
If you are pulled over and carrying child passengers, police officers will check for required safety systems and will see if seat belts fit children correctly. It is a good idea to check how car seats and seat belts fit as your children grow since you will need to upgrade once a child outgrows a car seat. Once children hit 57 inches, the regular seat belt laws apply.
Under the new car seat laws, failure to use a booster seat for a child who still needs it will result in a $30 fine. You can avoid paying the fine if you show proof that you since purchased a booster seat. Once your child reaches his or her ninth birthday and is over 57 inches tall, you no longer need a booster seat but you will need to follow seat belt usage laws or risk those fines.
The new law, though, does not assign civil liability to drivers who fail to use restraint systems. Contributory negligence is a defense strategy that states the plaintiff had a role in his or her injuries or those sustained by passengers. While this can be relevant if you were also driving recklessly, it is not admissible evidence if children are not in restraint systems. You can face the fine and other penalties, but you will not be considered responsible for injuries just because you did not use a car or booster seat.
However, the benefits to using a child restraint system are very clear. According the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, infant safety seats are 71 percent effective at reducing traffic fatalities, 67 percent effective in reducing hospital visits, and 54 percent effective in reducing fatalities for children between the ages of one and four. When it comes to booster seats, 90 percent of children between the ages of four and eight sustain serious injuries in car accidents when drivers do not use one. With liability not being an issue for drivers, avoiding the trouble of booster or car seats almost seems worth avoiding the extra trouble. The reality is, these devices save lives and reduce serious injury. Even if the law was not enacted, the effort is still worth it as it will preserve a child’s quality of life.
If you suffer a car accident, Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC offers skilled representation to help you collect compensation from negligent drivers. Contact us today to set up a free case review and consultation.