New York Car Seat Laws in 2021

In New York law, a child under two years old and under forty pounds must be restrained in a rear-facing safety seat, a child between two and three years old and forty pounds or more must be restrained in a safety seat, a child between four and seven must be restrained by a child restraint system, and a child between eight and seventeen must be restrained by a safety belt.

A child restraint system is a device meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards designed for use with safety belts in a motor vehicle to restrain, seat, or position a child. An appropriate child restraint system is a system for which the child meets the manufacturer’s size and weight recommendations.

Babies and Children Up to Two Years Old and Under Forty Pounds

A child under two years old must be restrained in the back seat of a motor vehicle in a specially designed seat meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards which is permanently affixed to the motor vehicle or affixed to the motor vehicle by a safety belt. The seat must be rear-facing unless the child exceeds the manufacturer’s size and weight recommendations. If the child exceeds the manufacturer’s size and weight recommendations for a rear-facing seat, he or she may be restrained in a forward-facing seat.

Children Between Two and Three Years Old or Forty Pounds or More

A child between two and three years old must be restrained in the front or back seat of a motor vehicle in a specially designed seat meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards which is permanently affixed to the motor vehicle or affixed to the motor vehicle by a safety belt. The seat must be rear-facing unless the child weighs more than forty pounds. 

If the child weighs more than forty pounds, he or she must be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system which uses a combination of lap safety and shoulder harness belts. If the motor vehicle is not equipped with combination lap safety and shoulder harness belts, or if all combination lap safety and shoulder harness belts are being used to restrain other passengers under sixteen years old, the child may be restrained by a lap safety belt.

Children Between Four and Seven Years Old

A child between four and seven years old must be restrained in the front or back seat of a motor vehicle in an appropriate child restraint system using a combination of lap and shoulder harness belts. If the motor vehicle is not equipped with combination lap safety and shoulder harness belts, or if all of the combination lap safety and shoulder harness belts are being used to restrain other passengers under sixteen years old, the child may be restrained by a lap safety belt.

Children Between Eight and Fifteen Years Old

A child between eight and fifteen years old must be restrained in the front or back seat of a motor vehicle by a safety belt approved by the commissioner. The child must be restrained by both a lap safety belt and a shoulder harness belt if seated in a position equipped with both.

Children Sixteen to Seventeen Years Old

A child between sixteen and seventeen years old driving or riding in the front seat of a motor vehicle must be secured in a safety belt that meets applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards. The child must be restrained by both a lap safety belt and a shoulder harness belt if seated in a position equipped with both.

Penalties for Violations

You may be fined between $25.00 and $100.00 for a violation of New York’s safety seats and safety belts law. However, for a first violation involving a child under eight years old, the court will waive your fine with proof of purchase or rental of a child restraint system meeting the requirements of the law between the date of your violation and the date of your court appearance.

Exemptions

Your child may be exempt from New York’s safety seats and safety belts law if he or she is being transported by bus, taxi, or livery.

Your child may be exempt from New York’s safety seats and safety belts law if he or she is being transported by an authorized emergency vehicle or if he or she is sixteen or seventeen years old and being transported in the rear seat of a fire vehicle or an ambulance which is not required to be equipped with a safety belt.

Your child may be exempt from New York’s safety seats and safety belts law if a physician certifies that your child has a physically disabling condition preventing appropriate restraint in a safety seat or by a safety belt and states the nature of the disability and the reason that restraint is inappropriate.

* Ms. Blake is licensed in the state of Maryland. The information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Attorney Denise A. Blake*

Denise practices family law at Blake Law, LLC in Westminster, Maryland. She holds a Juris Doctor with an emphasis in Family Law from the University of Baltimore School of Law.